Quantitative analyses of the interactions of the Escherichia coli primary replicative helicase DnaB protein with single-stranded ssDNA have been performed using the thermodynamically rigorous fluorescence titration technique. This approach allowed us to obtain absolute stoichiometries of the formed complexes and interaction parameters, without any assumptions about the relationship between the observed signal change and the degree of binding. The analysis of the DnaB helicase interactions with nonfluorescent, unmodified nucleic acids has been performed, using a novel spectroscopic Macromolecular Competition Titration (MCT) method developed in the accompanying paper [Jezewska, M. J., and Bujalowski, W. (1996) Biochemistry 35, 2117-2128]. In the presence of the ATP nonhydrolyzable analog AMP-PNP, the DnaB helicase binds polymer ssDNA with a site-size of 20 ± 3 nucleotides per protein hexamer. This site-size is independent of the type of nucleic acid base as well as the salt concentration and type of salt. Direct thermodynamic studies of the polynucleotide and oligomer binding to the DnaB hexamer, as well as the competition studies, show that independently of the type of nucleic acid base, as well as salt concentration and type of salt in solution, the helicase has only a single, strong binding site for DNA. Only this site is used when the protein interacts with polymer ssDNA. Moreover, UV photo-cross-linking experiments with oligonucleotides of different lengths, dT(pT)19, dT(pT)55, and dT(pT)69, suggest that primarily a single subunit of the DnaB helicase hexamer is in contact with the ssDNA. In interactions with polymer nucleic acids, the DnaB protein shows preferential intrinsic affinity for poly(dA), characterized in our standard conditions (pH 8.1, 10 °C, 100 mM NaCl, 5 mM MgCl2) by the intrinsic binding constant K = 6 ± 2 x 106 M-1. These affinities are comparable to the affinities of the single-strand binding proteins in the corresponding solution conditions and strongly suggest that the helicase is capable of binding ssDNA without additional facilitating factors. Both the intrinsic affinity and the cooperativity are salt dependent. The formation of the DnaB-ssDNA complex is accompanied by the net release of ~2 ions, while another net release of ~2 ions accompanies the cooperative interactions. The data indicate an anion effect on the studied interactions and suggests that the released ions most probably originate from both the protein and the nucleic acid. The presence of a single, strong binding site on the hexamer, built of six chemically identical subunits, the very low site-size of the large helicase-ssDNA complex, and the involvement of a single subunit in contact with the nucleic acid indicate the presence of long-range allosteric interactions in the DnaB helicase which encompass the entire DnaB hexamer. Our sedimentation velocity measurements of the DnaB protein-(AMP-PNP)-5'-fluorescein-(dT)20 ternary complex show that the sedimentation coefficient of the complex is s(20,w) = 12.3 ± 0.3, compared with s(20,w) = 10.5 ± 0.3 of the free enzyme, indicating large changes in the hydrodynamic properties of the enzyme in the complex. These results provide direct evidence that the DnaB hexamer undergoes dramatic conformational changes which include all six subunits of the enzyme in the ternary complex. Moreover, sedimentation velocity studies of the ternary complex provide direct evidence that the hexamer is the species which binds ss nucleic acid. The significance of these results for a mechanistic model of the functioning of the DnaB helicase in DNA replication is discussed.
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