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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Sep 17;99(19):12015-20. Epub 2002 Sep 6.

Physical constraints and functional characteristics of transcription factor-DNA interaction.

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  • 1Department of Physics, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0319, USA. gerland@physics.ucsd.edu


We study theoretical "design principles" for transcription factor (TF)-DNA interaction in bacteria, focusing particularly on the statistical interaction of the TFs with the genomic background (i.e., the genome without the target sites). We introduce and motivate the concept of programmability, i.e., the ability to set the threshold concentration for TF binding over a wide range merely by mutating the binding sequence of a target site. This functional demand, together with physical constraints arising from the thermodynamics and kinetics of TF-DNA interaction, leads us to a narrow range of "optimal" interaction parameters. We find that this parameter set agrees well with experimental data for the interaction parameters of a few exemplary prokaryotic TFs, which indicates that TF-DNA interaction is indeed programmable. We suggest further experiments to test whether this is a general feature for a large class of TFs.

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