Structural basis of the T4 bacteriophage primosome assembly and primer synthesis

Xiang Feng, Michelle M. Spiering, Ruda de Luna Almeida Santos, Stephen J. Benkovic, Huilin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The T4 bacteriophage gp41 helicase and gp61 primase assemble into a primosome to couple DNA unwinding with RNA primer synthesis for DNA replication. How the primosome is assembled and how the primer length is defined are unclear. Here we report a series of cryo-EM structures of T4 primosome assembly intermediates. We show that gp41 alone is an open spiral, and ssDNA binding triggers a large-scale scissor-like conformational change that drives the ring closure and activates the helicase. Helicase activation exposes a cryptic hydrophobic surface to recruit the gp61 primase. The primase binds the helicase in a bipartite mode in which the N-terminal Zn-binding domain and the C-terminal RNA polymerase domain each contain a helicase-interacting motif that bind to separate gp41 N-terminal hairpin dimers, leading to the assembly of one primase on the helicase hexamer. Our study reveals the T4 primosome assembly process and sheds light on the RNA primer synthesis mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4396
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy

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