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Replication of DNA in eukaryotes is primarily executed by the combined action of processive DNA polymerases δ and ɛ. These enzymes cannot initiate synthesis of new DNA without the presence of a primer on the template ssDNA. The primers on both the leading and lagging strands are generated by DNA polymerase α-primase (pol-prim). DNA primase is a DNA-dependent RNA polymerase that synthesizes the first ~10 nucleotides and then transfers the substrate to polymerase α to complete primer synthesis. The mechanisms governing the coordination and handoff between primase and polymerase α are largely unknown. Isolated DNA primase contains a [4Fe-4S] cluster that has been shown to serve as a redox switch modulating DNA binding affinity. This discovery suggests a mechanism for modulating the priming activity of primase and handoff to polymerase α. In this chapter, we briefly discuss the current state of knowledge of primase structure and function, including the role of its iron-sulfur cluster. This is followed by providing the methods for expressing, purifying, and biophysically/structurally characterizing primase and its iron-sulfur cluster-containing domain, p58C.
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