Escherichia coli helicase II (uvrD) protein can completely unwind fully duplex linear and nicked circular DNA

G. T. Runyon, T. M. Lohman

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We have examined the duplex DNA unwinding (helicase) properties of the Escherichia coli helicase II protein (uvrD gene product) over a wide range of protein concentrations and solution conditions using a variety of duplex DNA substrates including fully duplex blunt ended and nicked circular molecules. We find that helicase II protein is able to initiate on and completely unwind fully duplex DNA molecules without the requirement for a covalently attached 3' single-stranded DNA tail. This DNA unwinding activity is dependent upon Mg2+ and ATP and requires that the amount of protein be in excess of that needed to saturate the resulting single-stranded DNA. Unwinding experiments on fully duplex blunt ended DNA with lengths of 341, 849, 1625, and 2671 base pairs indicate that unwinding occurs at the same high ratios of helicase II protein/nucleotide, independent of DNA length (50% unwinding requires ~ 0.6 helicase II monomers/nucleotide in 2.5 mM MgCl2, 10% glycerol, pH 7.5, 37°C). Helicase II protein is also able to unwind completely a nicked circular DNA molecule containing 2671 base pairs. At lower but still high molar ratios of helicase II protein to DNA, duplex DNA molecules containing a single-stranded (ss) region attached to a 3' end of the duplex are preferentially unwound in agreement with the results obtained by S.W. Matson ((1986) J. Biol. Chem. 261, 10169-10175). This preferential unwinding of duplex DNA with an attached 3' ssDNA most likely reflects the availability of a high affinity site (ssDNA) with the proper orientation for initiation; however, this may not reflect the type of DNA molecule upon which helicase II protein initiates DNA unwinding in vivo. The effects of changes in NaCl, NaCH3COO, and MgCl2 concentration on the ability of helicase II protein to unwind fully duplex DNA and duplex DNA with a 3' ssDNA tail have also been examined. Although the unwinding of fully duplex and nicked circular DNA molecules reported here occurs at higher helicase II protein to DNA ratios than have been previously used in most studies of this protein in vitro, this activity is likely to be relevant to the function of this protein in vivo since very high levels of helicase II protein accumulate in E. coli during the SOS response to DNA damage (~ 2 - 5 x 104 copies/cell). The ability of the helicase II protein to initiate DNA unwinding at a nick and/or from internal regions of fully duplex DNA has implications for its role in both methyl-directed mismatch repair and the uvrABC excision repair pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17502-17512
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number29
StatePublished - 1989


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