Active site mapping of the catalytic mouse primase subunit by alanine scanning mutagenesis

J Biol Chem. 1995 Feb 24;270(8):3905-13. doi: 10.1074/jbc.270.8.3905.


In the eukaryotic cell, DNA synthesis is initiated by DNA primase associated with DNA polymerase alpha. The eukaryotic primase is composed of two subunits, p49 and p58, where the p49 subunit contains the catalytic active site. Mutagenesis of the cDNA for the p49 subunit was initiated to demonstrate a functional correlation of conserved residues among the eukaryotic primases and DNA polymerases. Fourteen invariant charged residues in the smaller catalytic mouse primase subunit, p49, were changed to alanine. These mutant proteins were expressed, purified, and enzymatically characterized for primer synthesis. Analyses of the mutant proteins indicate that residues 104-111 are most critical for primer synthesis and form part of the active site. Alanine substitution in residues Glu105, Asp109, and Asp111 produced protein with no detectable activity in direct primase assays, indicating that these residues may form part of a conserved carboxylic triad also observed in the active sites of DNA polymerases and reverse transcriptases. All other mutant proteins showed a dramatic decrease in catalysis, while mutation of two residues, Arg162 and Arg163, caused an increase in Km(NTP). Analysis of these mutant proteins in specific assays designed to separately investigate dinucleotide formation (initiation) and elongation of primer indicates that these two activities utilize the same active site within the p49 subunit. Finally, mutations in three active site codons produced protein with reduced affinity with the p58 subunit, suggesting that p58 may interact directly with active site residues.

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / genetics*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Catalysis
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Primase
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Enzyme Stability
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics*
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism
  • Temperature


  • DNA, Complementary
  • DNA
  • DNA Primase
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • Alanine