Adenovirus DNA replicates by displacement of one of the parental strands followed by duplication of the displaced parental single strand (complementary strand synthesis). Displacement synthesis has been performed in a reconstituted system composed of viral and cellular proteins, employing either the viral DNA-terminal protein complex as template or linearized plasmids containing the origin. Previously, evidence was obtained that in vivo complementary strand synthesis requires formation of a panhandle structure originating from hybridization of the inverted terminal repeats. To study the conditions for complementary strand synthesis in vitro, we have constructed an artificial panhandle molecule that contains a double-stranded inverted terminal repetition (ITR) region and a single-stranded loop derived from the left and right terminal Xma I fragments of Ad2. Such a molecule appeared to be an efficient template and could initiate by the same protein-priming mechanism as double-stranded DNA, employing the precursor terminal protein. The efficiency of both types of template was comparable. Like for replication of the duplex molecule initiation of panhandle replication was stimulated by nuclear factors I and III, proteins that bind to specific double-stranded regions of the ITR. The Ad DNA-binding protein is essential and the 39 kDa C-terminal domain of this protein that harbors the DNA-binding properties is sufficient for its function. These results support the hypothesis that panhandle formation is required for duplication of the displaced strand
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