The 63 kDa gene 4 protein of bacteriophage T7 provides both helicase and primase activities. The C-terminal helicase domain of the gene 4 protein is responsible for DNA-dependent NTP hydrolysis and for hexamer formation, whereas the N-terminal primase domain contains the zinc motif that is, in part, responsible for template-directed oligoribonucleotide synthesis. In the presence of β,γ-methylene dTTP, the protein forms a hexamer that surrounds and binds tightly to single-stranded DNA and consequently is unable to translocate to primase recognition sites, 5'-GTC-3', or to dissociate from the molecule to which it is bound. Nonetheless, in the presence of β,γ-methylene dTTP, it catalyzes the synthesis of pppAC dimers at primase sites on M13 DNA. When bound to single-stranded DNA in the presence of β,γ-methylene dTTP, the primase can function at recognition sites on the same molecule to which it is bound provided that a sufficient distance exists between the recognition site and the site to which it is bound. Furthermore, the primase bound to one DNA strand can function at a primase site located on a second DNA strand. The results indicate that the primase domain resides on the outside of the hexameric ring, a location that enables it to access sites distal to its site of binding.
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