The six-subunit origin recognition complex (ORC) was originally identified in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast ORC binds specifically to origins of replication and serves as a platform for the assembly of additional initiation factors, such as Cdc6 and the Mcm proteins. Human homologues of all six ORC subunits have been identified by sequence similarity to their yeast counter-parts, but little is known about the biochemical characteristics of human ORC (HsORC). We have extracted HsORC from HeLa cell chromatin and probed its subunit composition using specific antibodies. The endogenous HsORC, identified in these experiments, contained homologues of Orc1-Orc5 but lacked a putative homologue of Orc6. By expressing HsORC subunits in insect cells using the baculovirus system, we were able to identify a complex containing all six subunits. To explore the subunit-subunit interactions that are required for the assembly of HsORC, we carried out extensive co-immunoprecipitation experiments with recombinant ORC subunits expressed in different combinations. These studies revealed the following binary interactions: HsOrc2-HsOrc3, HsOrc2-HsOrc4, HsOrc3-HsOrc4, HsOrc2-HsOrc6, and HsOrc3-HsOrc6. HsOrc5 did not form stable binary complexes with any other HsORC subunit but interacted with sub-complexes containing any two of subunits HsOrc2, HsOrc3, or HsOrc4. Complex formation by HsOrcl required the presence of HsOrc2, HsOrc3, HsOrc4, and HsOrc5 subunits. These results suggest that the subunits HsOrc2, HsOrc3, and HsOrc4 form a core upon which the ordered assembly of HsOrc5 and HsOrc1 takes place. The characterization of HsORC should facilitate the identification of human origins of DNA replication.
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