“Helicase” activity promoted through dynamic interactions between a ssDNA translocase and a diffusing SSB protein

Kacey N. Mersch, Joshua E. Sokoloski, Binh Nguyen, Roberto Galletto, Timothy M. Lohman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Replication protein A (RPA) is a eukaryotic single-stranded (ss) DNA-binding (SSB) protein that is essential for all aspects of genome maintenance. RPA binds ssDNA with high affinity but can also diffuse along ssDNA. By itself, RPA is capable of transiently disrupting short regions of duplex DNA by diffusing from a ssDNA that flanks the duplex DNA. Using single-molecule total internal reflection fluorescence and optical trapping combined with fluorescence approaches, we show that S. cerevisiae Pif1 can use its ATP-dependent 5′ to 3′ translocase activity to chemomechanically push a single human RPA (hRPA) heterotrimer directionally along ssDNA at rates comparable to those of Pif1 translocation alone. We further show that using its translocation activity, Pif1 can push hRPA from a ssDNA loading site into a duplex DNA causing stable disruption of at least 9 bp of duplex DNA. These results highlight the dynamic nature of hRPA enabling it to be readily reorganized even when bound tightly to ssDNA and demonstrate a mechanism by which directional DNA unwinding can be achieved through the combined action of a ssDNA translocase that pushes an SSB protein. These results highlight the two basic requirements for any processive DNA helicase: transient DNA base pair melting (supplied by hRPA) and ATP-dependent directional ssDNA translocation (supplied by Pif1) and that these functions can be unlinked by using two separate proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2216777120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 11 2023


  • DNA motors
  • RPA
  • dynamics
  • optical tweezers
  • single-molecule fluorescence


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