MCM: one ring to rule them all
Precise replication of the eukaryotic genome is achieved primarily through strict regulation of the enzyme responsible for DNA unwinding, the replicative helicase. The motor of this helicase is a hexameric AAA+ ATPase called MCM. The loading of MCM onto DNA and its subsequent activation and disassembly are each restricted to separate cell cycle phases; this ensures that a functional replisome is only built once at any replication origin. In recent years, biochemical and structural studies have shown that distinct conformational changes in MCM, each requiring post-translational modifications and/or the activity of other replication proteins, define the various stages of the chromosome replication cycle. Here, we review recent progress in this area.