Replication protein A (RPA) is a eukaryotic single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) binding protein that plays critical roles in most aspects of genome maintenance, including replication, recombination and repair. RPA binds ssDNA with high affinity, destabilizes DNA secondary structure and facilitates binding of other proteins to ssDNA. However, RPA must be removed from or redistributed along ssDNA during these processes. To probe the dynamics of RPA-DNA interactions, we combined ensemble and single-molecule fluorescence approaches to examine human RPA (hRPA) diffusion along ssDNA and find that an hRPA heterotrimer can diffuse rapidly along ssDNA. Diffusion of hRPA is functional in that it provides the mechanism by which hRPA can transiently disrupt DNA hairpins by diffusing in from ssDNA regions adjacent to the DNA hairpin. hRPA diffusion was also monitored by the fluctuations in fluorescence intensity of a Cy3 fluorophore attached to the end of ssDNA. Using a novel method to calibrate the Cy3 fluorescence intensity as a function of hRPA position on the ssDNA, we estimate a one-dimensional diffusion coefficient of hRPA on ssDNA of D1 ~ 5000 nt2 s- 1 at 37 °C. Diffusion of hRPA while bound to ssDNA enables it to be readily repositioned to allow other proteins access to ssDNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3246-3261
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Sep 23 2014


  • RPA
  • diffusion coefficient
  • dynamics
  • single-molecule fluorescence


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