• ATP hydrolysis;
  • DNA mismatch repair;
  • endonuclease activity;
  • MutL;
  • MutS

In the initial steps of DNA mismatch repair, MutS recognizes a mismatched base and recruits the latent endonuclease MutL onto the mismatch-containing DNA in concert with other proteins. MutL then cleaves the error-containing strand to introduce an entry point for the downstream excision reaction. Because MutL has no intrinsic ability to recognize a mismatch and discriminate between newly synthesized and template strands, the endonuclease activity of MutL is strictly regulated by ATP-binding in order to avoid nonspecific degradation of the genomic DNA. However, the activation mechanism for its endonuclease activity remains unclear. In this study, we found that the coexistence of a mismatch, ATP and MutS unlocks the ATP-binding-dependent suppression of MutL endonuclease activity. Interestingly, ATPase-deficient mutants of MutS were unable to activate MutL. Furthermore, wild-type MutS activated ATPase-deficient mutants of MutL less efficiently than wild-type MutL. We concluded that ATP hydrolysis by MutS and MutL is involved in the mismatch-dependent activation of MutL endonuclease activity.