The elaborate process of genomic replication requires a large collection of proteins properly assembled at a DNA replication fork. Several decades of research on the bacterium Escherichia coli and its bacteriophages T4 and T7 have defined the roles of many proteins central to DNA replication. These three different prokaryotic replication systems use the same fundamental components for synthesis at a moving DNA replication fork even though the number and nature of some individual proteins are different and many lack extensive sequence homology. The components of the replication complex can be grouped into functional categories as follows: DNA polymerase, helix destabilizing protein, polymerase accessory factors, and primosome (DNA helicase and DNA primase activities). The replication of DNA derives from a multistep enzymatic pathway that features the assembly of accessory factors and polymerases into a functional holoenzyme; the separation of the double-stranded template DNA by helicase activity and its coupling to the primase synthesis of RNA primers to initiate Okazaki fragment synthesis; and the continuous and discontinuous synthesis of the leading and lagging daughter strands by the polymerases. This review summarizes and compares and contrasts for these three systems the types, timing, and mechanism of reactions and of protein-protein interactions required to initiate, control, and coordinate the synthesis of the leading and lagging strands at a DNA replication fork and comments on their generality.
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