In eukaryotes, the heterohexameric origin recognition complex (ORC) coordinates replication onset by facilitating the recruitment and loading of the minichromosome maintenance 2-7 (Mcm2-7) replicative helicase onto DNA to license origins. Drosophila ORC can adopt an autoinhibited configuration that is predicted to prevent Mcm2-7 loading; how the complex is activated and whether other ORC homologs can assume this state are not known. Using chemical cross-linking and mass spectrometry, biochemical assays, and electron microscopy (EM), we show that the autoinhibited state of Drosophila ORC is populated in solution, and that human ORC can also adopt this form. ATP binding to ORC supports a transition from the autoinhibited state to an active configuration, enabling the nucleotide-dependent association of ORC with both DNA and Cdc6. An unstructured N-terminal region adjacent to the conserved ATPase domain of Orc1 is shown to be required for high-affinity ORC-DNA interactions, but not for activation. ORC optimally binds DNA duplexes longer than the predicted footprint of the ORC ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities (AAA+) and winged-helix (WH) folds; cryo-EM analysis of Drosophila ORC bound to DNA and Cdc6 indicates that ORC contacts DNA outside of its central core region, bending the DNA away from its central DNA-binding channel. Our findings indicate that ORC autoinhibition may be common to metazoans and that ORC-Cdc6 remodels origin DNA before Mcm2-7 recruitment and loading.
Keywords: AAA+ ATPase; DNA replication; helicase loading; initiators; origin recognition complex.