Eukaryotic DNA replication. Enzymes and proteins acting at the fork

Eur J Biochem. 1990 Dec 27;194(3):699-712. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-1033.1990.tb19460.x.


A complex network of interacting proteins and enzymes is required for DNA replication. Much of our present understanding is derived from studies of the bacterium Escherichia coli and its bacteriophages T4 and T7. These results served as a guideline for the search and the purification of analogous proteins in eukaryotes. model systems for replication, such as the simian virus 40 DNA, lead the way. Generally, DNA replication follows a multistep enzymatic pathway. Separation of the double-helical DNA is performed by DNA helicases. Synthesis of the two daughter strands is conducted by two different DNA polymerases: the leading strand is replicated continuously by DNA polymerase delta and the lagging strand discontinuously in small pieces by DNA polymerase alpha. The latter is complexed to DNA primase, an enzyme in charge of frequent RNA primer syntheses on the lagging strand. Both DNA polymerases require several auxiliary proteins. They appear to make the DNA polymerases processive and to coordinate their functional tasks at the replication fork. 3'----5'-exonuclease, mostly part of the DNA polymerase delta polypeptide, can perform proof-reading by excising incorrectly base-paired nucleotides. The short DNA pieces of the lagging strand, called Okazaki fragments, are processed to a long DNA chain by the combined action of RNase H and 5'----3'-exonuclease, removing the RNA primers, DNA polymerase alpha or beta, filling the gap, and DNA ligase, sealing DNA pieces by phosphodiester bond formation. Torsional stress during DNA replication is released by DNA topoisomerases. In contrast to prokaryotes, DNA replication in eukaryotes not only has to create two identical daughter strands but also must conserve higher-order structures like chromatin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / physiology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, Viral
  • T-Phages / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase