Lysine 318 in the conserved sequence SXXXGXGKS of bacteriophage T7 gene 4A′ protein was mutated to an alanine to understand the effect of this substitution on the helicase and primase activities. The dTTPase activity of 4A′/K318A mutant protein was much lower than that of 4A′ and both Km and kcat values were affected. The Km of the mutant protein was 3–5-fold higher, and the kcat was about 100-fold lower, than that of 4A′. The mutation did not affect the ability of 4A′/K318A to assemble into hexamers or bind DNA in the presence of MgdTTP. Interestingly, the mutant protein does not bind DNA in the presence of MgdTMP-PCP. The reduced dTTPase activity, however, decreased the helicase activity of the mutant protein to an undetectable level, whereas its primase activity was only 1.5–2.5-fold lower. When 4A′/K318A mutant protein was mixed with 4A′, heterooligomers were formed and the helicase and the DNA-dependent dTTPase activities of 4A′ were inhibited, but the DNA-independent activity actually increased. The extent of decrease in activities upon heterooligomer formation depended both on the length of time 4A′ and 4A′/K318A proteins were incubated and on the concentration of the mutant protein. In addition, the decrease in the dTTPase activity was observed only when the two proteins were incubated in the absence of MgdTTP and DNA, conditions under which both proteins form unstable hexamers. Even though 4A′/K318A does not bind a 30-mer DNA in the presence of MgdTMP-PCP, heterooligomers were capable of binding DNA with the same stoichiometry as 4A′. Protein-DNA cross-linking experiments with (dT)30 and poly(5-BrdU) showed that DNA interacts with five and perhaps all six subunits of 4A′. Therefore, unless heterooligomer restores the ability of the mutant protein to bind DNA in the presence of MgdTMP-PCP, these results suggest that the DNA can bind 4A′ by interacting with a few subunits. However, a fully active hexamer is required for both the helicase and the single-stranded M13 DNA-dependent dTTPase activities.
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