The right-end telomere of replicative form (RF) DNA of the autonomous parvovirus minute virus of mice (MVM) consists of a sequence that is self-complementary except for a three nucleotide loop around the axis of symmetry and an interior bulge of three unpaired nucleotides on one strand (designated the right-end 'bubble'). This right-end inverted repeat can exist in the form of a folded-back strand (hairpin conformation) or in an extended form, base-paired to a copy strand (duplex conformation). We recently reported that the right-end telomere is processed in an A9 cell extract supplemented with the MVM nonstructural protein NS1. This processing is shown here to result from the NS1-dependent nicking of the complementary strand at a unique position 21 nt inboard of the folded-back genomic 5' end. DNA species terminating in duplex or hairpin configurations, or in a mutated structure that has lost the right-end bulge, are all cleaved in the presence of NS1, indicating that features distinguishing these structures are not prerequisites for nicking under the in vitro conditions tested. Cleavage of the hairpin structure is followed by strand-displacement synthesis, generating the right-end duplex conformation, while processing of the duplex structure leads to the release of free right-end telomeres. In the majority of molecules, displacement synthesis at the right terminus stops a few nucleotides before reaching the end of the template strand, possibly due to NS1 which is covalently bound to this end. A fraction of the right-end duplex product undergoes melting and re-folding into hairpin structures (formation of a 'rabbit-ear' structure).


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