Type I restriction endonucleases are intriguing, multifunctional complexes that restrict DNA randomly, at sites distant from the target sequence. Restriction at distant sites is facilitated by ATP hydrolysis-dependent, translocation of double-stranded DNA towards the stationary enzyme bound at the recognition sequence. Following restriction, the enzymes are thought to remain associated with the DNA at the target site, hydrolyzing copious amounts of ATP. As a result, for the past 35 years type I restriction endonucleases could only be loosely classified as enzymes since they functioned stoichiometrically relative to DNA. To further understand enzyme mechanism, a detailed analysis of DNA cleavage by the EcoR124I holoenzyme was done. We demonstrate for the first time that type I restriction endonucleases are not stoichiometric but are instead catalytic with respect to DNA. Further, the mechanism involves formation of a dimer of holoenzymes, with each monomer bound to a target sequence and, following cleavage, each dissociates in an intact form to bind and restrict subsequent DNA molecules. Therefore, type I restriction endonucleases, like their type II counterparts, are true enzymes. The conclusion that type I restriction enzymes are catalytic relative to DNA has important implications for the in vivo function of these previously enigmatic enzymes.
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