Cellular DNA replication factories depend on ring-shaped hexameric helicases to aid DNA synthesis by processively unzipping the parental DNA helix. Replicative helicases are loaded onto DNA by dedicated initiator, loader, and accessory proteins during the initiation of DNA replication in a tightly regulated, multistep process. We discuss here the molecular choreography of DNA replication initiation across the three domains of life, highlighting similarities and differences in the strategies used to deposit replicative helicases onto DNA and to melt the DNA helix in preparation for replisome assembly. Although initiators and loaders are phylogenetically related, the mechanisms they use for accomplishing similar tasks have diverged considerably and in an unpredictable manner.
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