Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 351–357

Organization and evolution of bacterial and bacteriophage primase-helicase systems

  • Tatjana V. Ilyina
  • Alexander E. Gorbalenya
  • Eugene V. Koonin

DOI: 10.1007/BF00160243

Cite this article as:
Ilyina, T.V., Gorbalenya, A.E. & Koonin, E.V. J Mol Evol (1992) 34: 351. doi:10.1007/BF00160243


Amino acid sequences of primases and associated helicases involved in the DNA replication of eubacteria and bacteriophages T7, T3, T4, P4, and P22 were compared by computer-assisted methods. There are two types of such systems, the first one represented by distinct helicase and primase proteins (e.g., DnaB and DnaG proteins of Escherichia coli), and the second one by single polypeptides comprising both activities (gp4 of bacteriophages T7 and T3, and alpha protein of bacteriophage P4). Pronounced sequence similarity was revealed between approximately 250 amino acid residue N-terminal domains of stand-alone primases and the primase-helicase proteins of T7(T3) and P4. All these domains contain, close to their N-termini, a conserved Zn-finger pattern that may be implicated in template DNA recognition by the primases. In addition, they encompass five other conserved motifs some of which may be involved in substrate (NTP) binding. Significant similarity was also observed between the primase-associated helicases (DnaB, gp12 of P22 and gp41 of T4) and the C-terminal domain of T7(T3) gp4. On the other hand the C-terminal domain of P-alpha of P4 is related to another group of DNA and RNA helicases. Tentative phylogenetic trees generated for the primases and the associated helicases showed no grouping of the phage proteins, with the exception of the primase domains of bacteriophages T4 and P4. This may indicate a common origin for one-component primase-helicase systems. Two scenarios for the evolution of primase-helicase systems are discussed. The first one involves fusion of the primase and helicase components (T7 and T3) or fusion of the primase component with a different type of helicase domain (P4). The second possibility is the duplication of an ancestral gene encoding a gp4-like bifunctional protein followed by divergence of the copies, one of which retains the primase and the other the helicase domain.

Key words

Primase-helicase systems Evolution Bacteria Bacteriophage 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatjana V. Ilyina
    • 1
  • Alexander E. Gorbalenya
    • 2
  • Eugene V. Koonin
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of MicrobiologyUSSR Academy of SciencesMoscowUSSR
  2. 2.Institute of Poliomyelitis and Viral EncephalitidesUSSR Academy of Medical SciencesMoscow RegionUSSR
  3. 3.National Center for Biotechnology InformationNational Library of MedicineBethesdaUSA

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