Molecular and cellular biology

Mechanism for specificity by HMG-1 in enhanceosome assembly.

PMID 10825199


Assembly of enhanceosomes requires architectural proteins to facilitate the DNA conformational changes accompanying cooperative binding of activators to a regulatory sequence. The architectural protein HMG-1 has been proposed to bind DNA in a sequence-independent manner, yet, paradoxically, it facilitates specific DNA binding reactions in vitro. To investigate the mechanism of specificity we explored the effect of HMG-1 on binding of the Epstein-Barr virus activator ZEBRA to a natural responsive promoter in vitro. DNase I footprinting, mutagenesis, and electrophoretic mobility shift assay reveal that HMG-1 binds cooperatively with ZEBRA to a specific DNA sequence between two adjacent ZEBRA recognition sites. This binding requires a strict alignment between two adjacent ZEBRA sites and both HMG boxes of HMG-1. Our study provides the first demonstration of sequence-dependent binding by a nonspecific HMG-box protein. We hypothesize how a ubiquitous, nonspecific architectural protein can function in a specific context through the use of rudimentary sequence recognition coupled with cooperativity. The observation that an abundant architectural protein can bind DNA cooperatively and specifically has implications towards understanding HMG-1's role in mediating DNA transactions in a variety of enzymological systems.