It is demonstrated, by means of computer-assisted analysis, that C1 protein involved in the replication of geminivirus DNA is related to the rolling circle replication initiator proteins of eubacterial plasmids, particularly the plasmids of the pMV158 family. Three sequence motifs conserved in the geminivirus and plasmid replication proteins were delineated, one of them encompassing the Tyr residue that presumably forms a covalent linkage to DNA. These findings are compatible with the results of recent analyses of geminivirus replicative intermediates suggesting a rolling circle mechanism for geminivirus DNA replication. It is hypothesized that C1 protein initiates the rolling circle replication of geminivirus DNA by nicking a specific site in the virus-sense DNA and covalently linking to the 5′ side of the nick. The putative rolling circle replication initiator domain comprises the N-terminal portion of C1, whereas its C-terminal part is a putative helicase domain. By analogy with prokaryotic systems, it is speculated that the replication initiator domain and the helicase domain function coordinately. The possibility of the origin of geminiviruses from prokaryotic circular ssDNA replicons is discussed.


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