Origin and degradation of the RNA primers at the 5′ termini of nascent DNA chains in Bacillus subtilis

Gaspar Banfalvi, Nilima Sarkar

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11 Citations (Scopus)


We had earlier characterized the nascent DNA synthesized in permeable cells of Bacillus subtilis in the presence of 5-mercurideoxycytidine triphosphate and 2′,3′-dideoxyATP as being substituted at its 5′ end with a ribonucleotide moiety of the sequence pApG(pC)1-2 DNA. In this paper, we examine the origin and turnover of the DNA-linked ribonucleotide and its relationship to DNA replication. At least 50% of the RNA-linked nascent DNA chains served as guanylate acceptors when incubated with GTP and the eukaryotic capping enzyme, indicating the presence of 5′-terminal di- or triphosphate groups and suggesting that the RNA moiety is synthesized de novo and is not a degradation product. In nascent DNA produced without limitation of chain growth by dideoxyATP, the degree of terminal ribonucleotide substitution was reduced by 50%, consistent with a linkage between RNA primer removal and DNA chain growth. Such a relationship was demonstrated directly by examining the RNA primer content of nascent DNA synthesized in the absence of dideoxyATP as a function of DNA chain length. As the DNA size increased from 40 to 200 nucleotide residues, the extent of RNA substitution declined from 80% to nearly 0%. Endgroup analysis showed that the loss of RNA was accompanied by a gradual shift from predominantly adenylate residues to 5′-terminal guanylate, consistent with a stepwise removal of ribonucleotides from the 5′ end. Evidence that the nascent mercurated DNA synthesized under our experimental conditions was indeed a replicative intermediate came from the study of the time course of DNA chain growth and pulse-chase experiments. In the presence of the DNA ligase inhibitor NMN, mercurated DNA accumulated in two size classes with average length of approximately 750 and 8000 nucleotide residues, presumably representing the mature size of intermediates in discontinuous DNA synthesis. Comparison with the DNA size range at which the loss of the 5′-terminal RNA moiety occurred (40 to 200 residues) indicated that the processing of RNA primers occurred at an early stage during DNA chain elongation, and that moderate size intermediates in discontinuous DNA replication (200 nucleotides) have already lost their RNA primers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-282
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 20 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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