The maturation of Okazaki fragments on the lagging strand in eukaryotes is mediated by a highly coordinated multistep process involving several proteins that ensure the accurate and efficient replication of genomic DNA. Human proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) that slides on double-stranded DNA is the key player that coordinates the access of various proteins to the different intermediary steps in this process. In this study, I am focusing on characterizing how PCNA recruits and stimulates the structure specific flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1) to process the aberrant double flap (DF) structures that are produced during maturation of Okazaki fragments. FEN1 distorts the DF structures into a bent conformer to place the scissile phosphate into the active site for cleavage. The product is a nick substrate that can be sealed by DNA ligase I whose recruitment is also mediated by its interaction with PCNA. Using single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET) measurements that simultaneously monitored bending and cleavage of various DF substrates by FEN1 alone or in the presence of PCNA, we found that FEN1 and PCNA bends cognate and non-cognate substrates but display remarkable selectivity to stabilize the bent conformer in cognate substrate while promoting the dissociation of non-cognate substrates. This mechanism provides efficiency and accuracy for FEN1 and PCNA to cleave the correct substrate while avoiding the deleterious cleavage of incorrect substrates. This work provides a true molecular level understanding of the key step during the maturation of Okazaki fragment and contributes towards the reconstitution of its entire activity at the single molecule level.
|Date made available
|KAUST Research Repository