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Nucleic Acids Res. 2004 Dec 21;32(22):6673-82. Print 2004.

Looking into DNA recognition: zinc finger binding specificity.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biochimie Théorique, CNRS UPR 9080, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris 75005, France.


We present a quantitative, theoretical analysis of the recognition mechanisms used by two zinc finger proteins: Zif268, which selectively binds to GC-rich sequences, and a Zif268 mutant, which binds to a TATA box site. This analysis is based on a recently developed method (ADAPT), which allows binding specificity to be analyzed via the calculation of complexation energies for all possible DNA target sequences. The results obtained with the zinc finger proteins show that, although both mainly select their targets using direct, pairwise protein-DNA interactions, they also use sequence-dependent DNA deformation to enhance their selectivity. A new extension of our methodology enables us to determine the quantitative contribution of these two components and also to measure the contributions of individual residues to overall specificity. The results show that indirect recognition is particularly important in the case of the TATA box binding mutant, accounting for 30% of the total selectivity. The residue-by-residue analysis of the protein-DNA interaction energy indicates that the existence of amino acid-base contacts does not necessarily imply sequence selectivity, and that side chains without contacts can nevertheless contribute to defining the protein's target sequence.

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