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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Biochemical characterization of the DNA substrate specificity of Werner syndrome helicase.

Werner syndrome is a hereditary premature aging disorder characterized by genome instability. The product of the gene defective in WS, WRN, is a helicase/exonuclease that presumably functions in DNA metabolism. To understand the DNA structures WRN acts upon in vivo, we examined its substrate preferences for unwinding. WRN unwound a 3'-single-stranded (ss)DNA-tailed duplex substrate with streptavidin bound to the end of the 3'-ssDNA tail, suggesting that WRN does not require a free DNA end to unwind the duplex; however, WRN was completely blocked by streptavidin bound to the 3'-ssDNA tail 6 nucleotides upstream of the single-stranded/double-stranded DNA junction. WRN efficiently unwound the forked duplex with streptavidin bound just upstream of the junction, suggesting that WRN recognizes elements of the fork structure to initiate unwinding. WRN unwound two important intermediates of replication/repair, a 5'-ssDNA flap substrate and a synthetic replication fork. WRN was able to translocate on the lagging strand of the synthetic replication fork to unwind duplex ahead of the fork. For the 5'-flap structure, WRN specifically displaced the 5'-flap oligonucleotide, suggesting a role of WRN in Okazaki fragment processing. The ability of WRN to target DNA replication/repair intermediates may be relevant to its role in genome stability maintenance.[1]


  1. Biochemical characterization of the DNA substrate specificity of Werner syndrome helicase. Brosh, R.M., Waheed, J., Sommers, J.A. J. Biol. Chem. (2002) [Pubmed]
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