Minichromosome maintenance (MCM) proteins are believed to provide the replicative helicase activity in eukaryotes and archaea. The single MCM orthologue from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus (MthMCM) has been extensively characterized as a model of the eukaryotic heterohexameric MCM complex. MthMCM forms high molecular weight complexes in solution consistent with a dodecamer. Visualization of this complex by electron microscopy suggests that single and double heptameric or hexameric rings can form. We have mutated two arginine residues (Arg-137, Arg-160) in the N-terminal subdomain B of MthMCM based on their apparent potential to form inter-ring hydrogen bonds. Both the single R137A and the double R137A, R160A mutants were characterized by a combination of biophysical, biochemical, and electron microscopy techniques. Biophysical analysis coupled with electron microscopy studies shows that the R137A mutant forms a double heptameric ring, whereas the R137A, R160A protein assembles as a single heptamer. They both show a defect in DNA binding and a concomitant conformational change in subdomain A, with the double mutant displaying significant defects in helicase activity as well. We propose a model in which MCM loading and the subsequent activation of the helicase activity involve a conformational transition that is connected to a DNA binding event.
- METHANOTHERMOBACTER-THERMAUTOTROPHICUS MCM
- METHANOBACTERIUM-THERMOAUTOTROPHICUM MCM
- PROTEIN COMPLEX