Initiation of DNA Replication

EcoSal Plus. 2010 Sep;4(1):10.1128/ecosalplus.4.4.1. doi: 10.1128/ecosalplus.4.4.1.


In recent years it has become clear that complex regulatory circuits control the initiation step of DNA replication by directing the assembly of a multicomponent molecular machine (the orisome) that separates DNA strands and loads replicative helicase at oriC, the unique chromosomal origin of replication. This chapter discusses recent efforts to understand the regulated protein-DNA interactions that are responsible for properly timed initiation of chromosome replication. It reviews information about newly identified nucleotide sequence features within Escherichia coli oriC and the new structural and biochemical attributes of the bacterial initiator protein DnaA. It also discusses the coordinated mechanisms that prevent improperly timed DNA replication. Identification of the genes that encoded the initiators came from studies on temperature-sensitive, conditional-lethal mutants of E. coli, in which two DNA replication-defective phenotypes, "immediate stop" mutants and "delayed stop" mutants, were identified. The kinetics of the delayed stop mutants suggested that the defective gene products were required specifically for the initiation step of DNA synthesis, and subsequently, two genes, dnaA and dnaC, were identified. The DnaA protein is the bacterial initiator, and in E. coli, the DnaC protein is required to load replicative helicase. Regulation of DnaA accessibility to oriC, the ordered assembly and disassembly of a multi-DnaA complex at oriC, and the means by which DnaA unwinds oriC remain important questions to be answered and the chapter discusses the current state of knowledge on these topics.