You are here : Home > News > Insight into the activation process of MCM8-MCM9 Helicases

Scientific result | Article | Structural biology | Molecular mechanisms

Insight into the activation process of MCM8-MCM9 Helicases

Researchers from the AMIG team (I2BC department), in collaboration with the IRB (Switzerland), have modeled the interaction between HROB and the helicases MCM8-MCM9, some mutations of which predispose individuals to infertility or cancer. They demonstrate that HROB promotes the catalytic activity of the MCM8-MCM9 complex but does not play a role in its recruitment or stability.

Published on 22 May 2024

The proteins MCM8 and MCM9 have recently been discovered as involved in multiple processes, normal and pathological, related to DNA replication, meiosis, homologous recombination, and mismatch repair. These proteins are helicases that have the ability to move along DNA and separate the two DNA strands. 

Variants of these proteins may predispose carriers to disorders such as infertility and cancer. In 2019, a third partner, HROB, was identified as associated with these two helicases without its mechanisms of action being understood. Since HROB is capable of interacting with DNA, three functional hypotheses can be considered:

  1. HROB participates in the recruitment of helicases on DNA,
  2. HROB stabilizes the assembly of MCM8 and MCM9 on DNA, 
  3. HROB promotes the catalytic activity of pre-assembled helicases.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the AMIG team at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the Cell (I2BC) collaborated with a team from the Institute of Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Switzerland to establish different structural models of the MCM8-MCM9-HROB complex. Guided by these models, a set of simple and compensatory mutations allowed the dissection of the functional role of HROB. The teams showed that only the third hypothesis was correct and that HROB is an essential factor for activating the MCM8-MCM9 helicase but not for its recruitment or stability. The structural model suggests that by transiently altering the conformation of a MCM9 subunit, HROB stimulates the translocation of the helicase along the DNA. Based on this model, it was even possible to design mutations that increase the efficiency of the helicase in the presence of HROB.

© R. Guerois/CEA

Contact within Frédéric-Joliot Institute for Life sciences:

 Raphael Guero​​is (

Top page