Magnetic tweezers study to monitor RepC niking and PcrA unwinding at the single-molecule level. First, a torsionally-constrained DNA molecule is supercoiled. Then, a RepC dimer binds and nicks the molecule; DNA extension increases. Finally, PcrA helicase unwinds the DNA and the extension decreases.
Carrasco C, Pastrana CL, Aicart-Ramos C, Leuba SH, Khan SA, Moreno-Herrero F.
Nucleic Acids Res2020 Feb; 48: 2013.
The rolling-circle replication is the most common mechanism for the replication of small plasmids carrying antibiotic resistance genes in Gram-positive bacteria. It is initiated by the binding and nicking of double-stranded origin of replication by a replication initiator protein (Rep). Duplex unwinding is then performed by the PcrA helicase, whose processivity is critically promoted by its interaction with Rep. How Rep and PcrA proteins interact to nick and unwind the duplex is not fully understood. Here, we have used magnetic tweezers to monitor PcrA helicase unwinding and its relationship with the nicking activity of Staphylococcus aureus plasmid pT181 initiator RepC. Our results indicate that PcrA is a highly processive helicase prone to stochastic pausing, resulting in average translocation rates of 30 bp s-1, while a typical velocity of 50 bp s-1 is found in the absence of pausing. Single-strand DNA binding protein did not affect PcrA translocation velocity but slightly increased its processivity. Analysis of the degree of DNA supercoiling required for RepC nicking, and the time between RepC nicking and DNA unwinding, suggests that RepC and PcrA form a protein complex on the DNA binding site before nicking. A comprehensive model that rationalizes these findings is presented.