Mechanisms of opening and closing of the bacterial replicative helicase

Elife. 2018 Dec 24:7:e41140. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41140.


Assembly of bacterial ring-shaped hexameric replicative helicases on single-stranded (ss) DNA requires specialized loading factors. However, mechanisms implemented by these factors during opening and closing of the helicase, which enable and restrict access to an internal chamber, are not known. Here, we investigate these mechanisms in the Escherichia coli DnaB helicase•bacteriophage λ helicase loader (λP) complex. We show that five copies of λP bind at DnaB subunit interfaces and reconfigure the helicase into an open spiral conformation that is intermediate to previously observed closed ring and closed spiral forms; reconfiguration also produces openings large enough to admit ssDNA into the inner chamber. The helicase is also observed in a restrained inactive configuration that poises it to close on activating signal, and transition to the translocation state. Our findings provide insights into helicase opening, delivery to the origin and ssDNA entry, and closing in preparation for translocation.

Keywords: DNA replication; DnaB replicative helicase; E. coli; biochemistry; chemical biology; cryogenic electron microscopy; helicase loader; molecular biophysics; replication initiation; structural biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophage lambda / enzymology
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / metabolism
  • DnaB Helicases / chemistry*
  • DnaB Helicases / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry*
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*


  • DNA replication complex protein, Bacteriophage lambda
  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • Viral Proteins
  • dnaB protein, E coli
  • DnaB Helicases