Quantitative analyses of the interactions of the Escherichia coli replicative helicase PriA protein with a single-stranded DNA have been performed, using the thermodynamically rigorous fluorescence titration technique. The analysis of the PriA helicase interactions with nonfluorescent, unmodified nucleic acids has been performed, using the macromolecular competition titration (MCT) method. Thermodynamic studies of the PriA helicase binding to ssDNA oligomers, as well as competition studies, show that independently of the type of nucleic acid base, as well as the salt concentration, the type of salt in solution, and nucleotide cofactors, the PriA helicase binds the ssDNA as a monomer. The enzyme binds the ssDNA with significant affinity in the absence of any nucleotide cofactors. Moreover, the presence of AMP-PNP diminishes the intrinsic affinity of the PriA protein for the ssDNA by a factor ~4, while ADP has no detectable effect. Analyses of the PriA interactions with different ssDNA oligomers, over a large range of nucleic acid concentrations, indicates that the enzyme has a single, strong ssDNA-binding site. The intrinsic affinities are salt-dependent. The formation of the helicase-ssDNA complexes is accompanied by a net release of 3-4 ions. The experiments have been performed with ssDNA oligomers encompassing the total site size of the helicase-ssDNA complex and with oligomers long enough to encompass only the ssDNA-binding site of the enzyme. The obtained results indicate that salt dependence of the intrinsic affinity results predominantly, if not exclusively, from the interactions of the ssDNA-binding site of the helicase with the nucleic acid. There is an anion effect on the studied interactions, which suggests that released ions originate from both the protein and the nucleic acid. Contrary to the intrinsic affinities, cooperative interactions between bound PriA molecules are accompanied by a net uptake of ~3 ions. The PriA protein shows preferential intrinsic affinity for pyrimidine ssDNA oligomers. In our standard conditions (pH 7.0, 10 °C, 100 mM NaCl), the intrinsic binding constant for the pyrimidine oligomers is ~1 order of magnitude higher than the intrinsic binding constant for the purine oligomers. The significance of these results for the mechanism of action of the PriA helicase is discussed.
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