Escherichia coli DnaA is the initiator of chromosomal replication. Multiple ATP-DnaA molecules assemble at the oriC replication origin in a highly regulated manner, and the resultant initiation complexes promote local duplex unwinding within oriC, resulting in open complexes. DnaB helicase is loaded onto the unwound single-stranded region within oriC via interaction with the DnaA multimers. The tertiary structure of the functional domains of DnaA has been determined and several crucial residues in the initiation process, as well as their unique functions, have been identified. These include specific DNA binding, inter-DnaA interaction, specific and regulatory interactions with ATP and with the unwound single-stranded oriC DNA, and functional interaction with DnaB helicase. An overall structure of the initiation complex is also proposed. These are important for deepening our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie DnaA assembly, oriC duplex unwinding, regulation of the initiation reaction, and DnaB helicase loading. In this review, we summarize recent progress on the molecular mechanisms of the functions of DnaA on oriC. In addition, some members of the AAA+ protein family related to the initiation of replication and its regulation (e.g., DnaA) are briefly discussed.
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