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J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 1;275(35):26828-33.

The zab domain of the human RNA editing enzyme ADAR1 recognizes Z-DNA when surrounded by B-DNA.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The Zab domain of the editing enzyme ADAR1 binds tightly and specifically to Z-DNA stabilized by bromination or supercoiling. A stoichiometric amount of protein has been shown to convert a substrate of suitable sequence to the Z form, as demonstrated by a characteristic change in the CD spectrum of the DNA. Now we show that Zab can bind not only to isolated Z-forming d(CG)(n) sequences but also to d(CG)(n) embedded in B-DNA. The binding of Zab to such sequences results in a complex including Z-DNA, B-DNA, and two B-Z junctions. In this complex, the d(CG)(n) sequence, but not the flanking region, is in the Z conformation. The presence of Z-DNA was detected by cleavage with a Z-DNA specific nuclease, by undermethylation using Z-DNA sensitive SssI methylase, and by circular dichroism. It is possible that Zab binds to B-DNA with low affinity and flips any favorable sequence into Z-DNA, resulting in a high affinity complex. Alternatively, Zab may capture Z-DNA that exists transiently in solution. The binding of Zab to potential as well as established Z-DNA segments suggests that the range of biological substrates might be wider than previously thought.

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