In T4 bacteriophage, the DNA polymerase holoenzyme is responsible for accurate and processive DNA synthesis. The holoenzyme consists of DNA polymerase gp43 and clamp protein gp45. To form a productive holoenzyme complex, clamp loader protein gp44/62 is required for the loading of gp45, along with MgATP, and also for the subsequent binding of polymerase to the loaded clamp. Recently published evidence suggests that holoenzyme assembly in the T4 replisome may take place via more than one pathway [Zhuang, Z., Berdis, A. J., and Benkovic, S. J. (2006) Biochemistry 45, 7976-7989]. To demonstrate unequivocally whether there are multiple pathways leading to the formation of a productive holoenzyme, single-molecule fluorescence microscopy has been used to study the potential clamp loading and holoenzyme assembly pathways on a single-molecule DNA substrate. The results obtained reveal four pathways that foster the formation of a functional holoenzyme on DNA: (1) clamp loader-clamp complex binding to DNA followed by polymerase, (2) clamp loader binding to DNA followed by clamp and then polymerase, (3) clamp binding to DNA followed by clamp loader and then polymerase, and (4) polymerase binding to DNA followed by the clamp loader-clamp complex. In all cases, MgATP is required. The possible physiological significance of the various assembly pathways is discussed in the context of replication initiation and lagging strand synthesis during various stages of T4 phage replication.
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