A model for Escherichia coli DNA polymerase III holoenzyme assembly at primer/template ends. DNA triggers a change in binding specificity of the gamma complex clamp loader.


The gamma complex of the Escherichia coli DNA polymerase III holoenzyme assembles the beta sliding clamp onto DNA in an ATP hydrolysis-driven reaction. Interactions between gamma complex and primer/template DNA are investigated using fluorescence depolarization to measure binding of gamma complex to different DNA substrates under steady-state and presteady-state conditions. Surprisingly, gamma complex has a much higher affinity for single-stranded DNA (K(d) in the nM range) than for a primed template (K(d) in the microM range) under steady-state conditions. However, when examined on a millisecond time scale, we find that gamma complex initially binds very rapidly and with high affinity to primer/template DNA but is converted subsequently to a much lower affinity DNA binding state. Presteady-state data reveals an effective dissociation constant of 1.5 nM for the initial binding of gamma complex to DNA and a dissociation constant of 5.7 microM for the low affinity DNA binding state. Experiments using nonhydrolyzable ATPgammaS show that ATP binding converts gamma complex from a low affinity "inactive" to high affinity "active" DNA binding state while ATP hydrolysis has the reverse effect, thus allowing cycling between active and inactive DNA binding forms at steady-state. We propose that a DNA-triggered switch between active and inactive states of gamma complex provides a two-tiered mechanism enabling gamma complex to recognize primed template sites and load beta, while preventing gamma complex from competing with DNA polymerase III core for binding a newly loaded beta.DNA complex.




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