|The Initiation of Bacterial DNA Replication|
For the first time, scientists have determined the structure of the initiator of bacterial DNA replication. It is already known that such replication is controlled by a protein known as DnaA, a member of the AAA+ superfamily of ATPases. What has now been discovered is that the core of the initiator is not the closed-ring structure expected for this system. Instead, DnaA forms an open right-handed helix. In addition, the architecture indicates that this AAA+ superhelix will wrap coils of the DNA around its exterior, causing the DNA double helix to deform as a first step in the separation and unwinding of its strands. Eukaryotic and archaeal initiators also have the structural elements that promote open-helix formation, indicating that a spiral, open-ring AAA+ assembly is a conserved element from a common evolutionary ancestor of Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya.
At the beginning of replication, ATP binds with DnaA, causing it to change from a monomer to a large oligomeric complex consisting of DnaA monomers bound to a series of DnaA "boxes" (9-base-pair sequences). Although this DnaA/DnaA-box interaction is highly conserved in all bacteria, the mechanism by which ATP activates DnaA oligomerization has been poorly understood. However, University of California, Berkeley, researchers using ALS Beamline 8.3.1 have determined the structure of ATP-bound DnaA from the bacterium Aquifex aeolicus. Using data collected from a single crystal, they assembled a high-resolution model of an ATP-bound DnaA molecule using an ATP analog (AMP-PCP). Each asymmetric unit contains four structurally similar DnaA molecules arranged in a head-to-tail manner.
Several important pieces of information came out of this study. First, by comparing the ATP-DnaA binding pocket to those of other AAA+ assemblies, it was determined that the ATP-DnaA active site is in a closed configuration, which allows it to bind nucleotides using conserved residues from neighboring AAA+ protomers. The precise geometry of these contacts depends on the subunit arrangement arising from the ATP-DnaA spiral, strongly supporting the physiological relevance of the helical filament architecture.
The researchers also discovered that a V-shaped α-helical steric wedge protrudes away from the core AAA+ fold and reorients the AAA+ interface, preventing a flat-ring assembly. This establishes the unique DnaA superhelix. While the steric wedge directs this helical architecture, an ATP-specific conformational change within the AAA+ domain accommodates and stabilizes subunit-subunit interactions necessary to support oligomer formation at replication origins. This rearrangement adjusts for internal incompatibility and is crucial for filament creation.
The mechanism that allows DnaA to render an origin competent for replisome activity is the linker helix in domain IV of ATP-DnaA. This helix is bent at a ≥40° angle, and the ATPase and DNA binding domains of DnaA are tethered but conformationally uncoupled, allowing the origin DNA to wrap around the outside of a DnaA core (consistent with previous E. coli modeling studies).
Understanding replisome initiation allows us to start answering some long-held questions and start asking some new ones. Although the DnaA/DnaA-box interaction is highly conserved in all bacteria, the origins of different bacteria vary greatly. How does a conserved initiator protein accommodate this origin heterogeneity? A filamentous DnaA assembly provides a ready mechanism, as it could grow or shrink at either end depending on the size and organization of the origin.
The structural similarities of AAA+ in archaeal, eukaryotic, and bacterial initiators further suggest these proteins share substantial mechanistic properties. A recent classification of AAA+ proteins reveals that all initiators share a specific helical insert in their ATPase cores. We must then ask, do the AAA+ domains of archaeal and eukaryotic initiators assemble in a manner similar to that of bacterial ATP-DnaA? Recent EM reconstructions of the Drosophila melanogaster origin recognition complex reveal a helical feature within the initiator that accommodates a five-subunit, DnaA-like AAA+ assembly. This finding indicates that the DnaA oligomer is a useful model to further our understanding of higher-order initiator architecture and function.
Research conducted by J.P. Erzberger and M.L. Mott (University of California, Berkeley) and J.M. Berger (University of California, Berkeley, and Berkeley Lab).
Research funding: G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Operation of the ALS is supported by U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES).
Publication about this research: J.P. Erzberger, M.L. Mott and J.M. Berger, "Structural basis for ATP-dependent DnaA assembly and replication-origin remodeling," Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. 13, 665 (2006).