Trading places on DNA--a three-point switch underlies primer handoff from primase to the replicative DNA polymerase

Cell. 1999 Jan 8;96(1):153-63. doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(00)80968-x.


This study reports a primase-to-polymerase switch in E. coli that closely links primase action with extension by DNA polymerase III holoenzyme. We find that primase tightly grips its RNA primer, protecting it from the action of other proteins. However, primase must be displaced before the beta sliding clamp can be assembled on the primed site. A single subunit of the holoenzyme, chi, is dedicated to this primase displacement task. The displacement mechanism depends on a third protein, SSB. Primase requires contact to SSB for its grip on the primed site. The chi subunit also binds SSB, upon which the primase-to-SSB contact is destabilized leading to dissociation of primase and assembly of beta onto the RNA primer. The conservation of this three-point switch, in which two proteins exchange places on DNA via mutually exclusive interaction with a third protein, is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA Primase / metabolism*
  • DNA Replication*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Mutagenesis
  • RNA*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA primers
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • DNA Primase
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase