Unwinding of duplex DNA from the SV40 origin of replication by T antigen

Science  13 Nov 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4829, pp. 964-967
DOI: 10.1126/science.2823389

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The T antigen specified by SV40 virus is the only viral-encoded protein required for replication of SV40 DNA. T antigen has two activities that appear to be essential for viral DNA replication: specific binding to duplex DNA at the origin of replication and helicase activity that unwinds the two DNA strands. As judged by electron microscopy, DNA unwinding is initiated at the origin of replication and proceeds bidirectionally. Either linear or circular DNA molecules containing the origin of replication are effective substrates; with closed circular DNA, a topoisomerase capable of removing positive superhelical turns is required for an efficient reaction. Presence of an origin sequence on duplex DNA and a single-strand DNA-binding protein appear to be the only requirements for T antigen to catalyze unwinding. This reaction mediated by T antigen defines a likely pathway to precise initiation of DNA replication: (i) the sequence-specific binding activity locates the origin sequence, (ii) the duplex DNA is unwound at this site, and (iii) the DNA polymerase and primase begin DNA replication. A similar pathway has been inferred for the localized initiation of DNA replication by bacteriophage lambda and by Escherichia coli in which a sequence-specific binding protein locates the origin and directs the DnaB helicase to this site. Observations with the SV40 system indicate that localized initiation of duplex DNA replication may be similar for prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

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