Journal of molecular biology

The energetic contribution of induced electrostatic asymmetry to DNA bending by a site-specific protein.

PMID 21167173


DNA bending can be promoted by reducing the net negative electrostatic potential around phosphates on one face of the DNA, such that electrostatic repulsion among phosphates on the opposite face drives bending toward the less negative surface. To provide the first assessment of energetic contribution to DNA bending when electrostatic asymmetry is induced by a site-specific DNA binding protein, we manipulated the electrostatics in the EcoRV endonuclease-DNA complex by mutation of cationic side chains that contact DNA phosphates and/or by replacement of a selected phosphate in each strand with uncharged methylphosphonate. Reducing the net negative charge at two symmetrically located phosphates on the concave DNA face contributes -2.3 kcal mol(-1) to -0.9 kcal mol(-1) (depending on position) to complex formation. In contrast, reducing negative charge on the opposing convex face produces a penalty of +1.3 kcal mol(-1). Förster resonance energy transfer experiments show that the extent of axial DNA bending (about 50°) is little affected in modified complexes, implying that modification affects the energetic cost but not the extent of DNA bending. Kinetic studies show that the favorable effects of induced electrostatic asymmetry on equilibrium binding derive primarily from a reduced rate of complex dissociation, suggesting stabilization of the specific complex between protein and markedly bent DNA. A smaller increase in the association rate may suggest that the DNA in the initial encounter complex is mildly bent. The data imply that protein-induced electrostatic asymmetry makes a significant contribution to DNA bending but is not itself sufficient to drive full bending in the specific EcoRV-DNA complex.

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Methylphosphonic acid, 98%