RNA primers in simian virus 40 DNA replication. II. Distribution of 5′ terminal oligoribonucleotides in nascent DNA

Gabriel Kaufmann*, Stephen Anderson, Melvin L. DePamphilis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A cell-free simian virus 40 (SV40) DNA replication system served to study the role of RNA in the initiation of nascent DNA chains of less than 200 nucleotides (Okazaki pieces). RNA-DNA covalent linkages were found to copurify with SV40 replicating DNA. These linkages were identified by transfer of a fraction of the 32P from the 5′ position of a deoxyribonucleotide to 2′(3′)rNMPs upon either alkaline hydrolysis or RNAase T2 digestion of SV40 replicating [32P]DNA. Alkaline hydrolysis also exposed 5′ terminal hydroxyl groups in the nascent DNA which were detected as nucleosides after digestion with P1 nuclease. The RNA-DNA covalent linkages resulted from a population of Okazaki pieces containing uniquely sized oligoribonucleotides covalently attached to their 5′ termini (RNA primers). The density of a portion of the Okazaki pieces in potassium iodide gradients corresponded to a content of 90% DNA and 10% RNA, while the remaining Okazaki pieces appeared to contain only DNA. Incubation of Okazaki pieces with a defined length in the presence of either RNAase T2 or potassium hydroxide converted about one-third to one-half of them intto a second well defined group of DNA chains of greater electrophoretic mobili y in polyacrylamide gels. The increased mobility corresponded to the removalof at least seven-residues. Since alkaline hydrolysis of similar Okazaki pieces revealed that one-third to one-half of them contained rN-32P-dN linkages, the oligoribonucleotides must be covalently attached to the 5′ ends of nascent DNA chains. Although the significance of two populations of Okazaki pieces, one with and one without RNA primers, is imperfectly understood, a sizable fraction of nascent DNA chains clearly contained RNA primers. Neither the length of the RNA primer nor the number of RNA primers per DNA chain changed significantly with increasing length of Okazaki pieces. Since the frequency of RNA-DNA junctions found in nascent DNA chains greater than 400 nucleotides was similar to that of Okazaki pieces, the complete excision of RNA primers appears to occur after Okazaki pieces are joined to the 5′ end of growing daughter strands. 32P-label transfer analysis of Okazaki pieces recovered from hybrids with isolated HindII + III restriction fragments of SV40 DNA revealed a uniform distribution of rN-P-dN sequences around the replicating DNA molecule. Therefore, most, if not all, RNA primers serve to initiate Okazaki pieces rather than to initiate DNA replication at the origin of the genome. Moreover, the positions of RNA primers are not determined by a specific set of nucleotide sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-567
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 5 Nov 1977
Externally publishedYes


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