Studies of the DNA helicase-RNA primase unit from bacteriophage T4. A trinucleotide sequence on the DNA template starts RNA primer synthesis

J Biol Chem. 1986 May 25;261(15):7001-10.


The purified DNA replication proteins encoded by genes 41 and 61 of bacteriophage T4 catalyze efficient RNA primer synthesis on a single-stranded DNA template. In the presence of additional T4 replication proteins, we demonstrate that the template sequences 5'-GTT-3' and 5'-GCT-3' serve as necessary and sufficient signals for RNA primer-dependent initiation of new DNA chains. These chains start with primers that have the sequences pppApCpNpNpN and pppGpCpNpNpN, where N can be any one of the four ribonucleotides. Each primer is initiated from the T (A-start primers) or C (G-start primers) in the center of the recognized template sequence. A subset of the DNA chain starts is observed when one of the four ribonucleoside triphosphates used as the substrates for primer synthesis is omitted; the starts observed reveal that both pentaribonucleotide and tetraribonucleotide primers can be used for efficient initiation of new DNA chains, whereas primers that are only 3 nucleotides long are inactive. It was known previously that, when 61 protein is present in catalytic amounts, the 41 and 61 proteins are both required for observing RNA primer synthesis. However, by raising the concentration of the 61 protein to a much higher level, a substantial amount of RNA-primed DNA synthesis is obtained in the absence of 41 protein. The DNA chains made are initiated by primers that seem to be identical to those made when both 41 and 61 proteins are present; however, only those template sites containing the 5'-GCT-3' sequence are utilized. The 61 protein is, therefore, the RNA primase, whereas the 41 protein should be viewed as a DNA helicase that is required (presumably via a 41/61 complex) for efficient primase recognition of both the 5'-GCT-3' and 5'-GTT-3' DNA template sequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Replication*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Kinetics
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • RNA / biosynthesis*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Substrate Specificity
  • T-Phages / enzymology*
  • T-Phages / genetics
  • Templates, Genetic


  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • RNA primers
  • RNA