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J Mol Biol. 2011 Jan 7;405(1):185-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2010.10.029. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

Evolution of I-SceI homing endonucleases with increased DNA recognition site specificity.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.

Abstract

Elucidating how homing endonucleases undergo changes in recognition site specificity will facilitate efforts to engineer proteins for gene therapy applications. I-SceI is a monomeric homing endonuclease that recognizes and cleaves within an 18-bp target. It tolerates limited degeneracy in its target sequence, including substitution of a C:G(+4) base pair for the wild-type A:T(+4) base pair. Libraries encoding randomized amino acids at I-SceI residue positions that contact or are proximal to A:T(+4) were used in conjunction with a bacterial one-hybrid system to select I-SceI derivatives that bind to recognition sites containing either the A:T(+4) or the C:G(+4) base pairs. As expected, isolates encoding wild-type residues at the randomized positions were selected using either target sequence. All I-SceI proteins isolated using the C:G(+4) recognition site included small side-chain substitutions at G100 and either contained (K86R/G100T, K86R/G100S and K86R/G100C) or lacked (G100A, G100T) a K86R substitution. Interestingly, the binding affinities of the selected variants for the wild-type A:T(+4) target are 4- to 11-fold lower than that of wild-type I-SceI, whereas those for the C:G(+4) target are similar. The increased specificity of the mutant proteins is also evident in binding experiments in vivo. These differences in binding affinities account for the observed ∼36-fold difference in target preference between the K86R/G100T and wild-type proteins in DNA cleavage assays. An X-ray crystal structure of the K86R/G100T mutant protein bound to a DNA duplex containing the C:G(+4) substitution suggests how sequence specificity of a homing enzyme can increase. This biochemical and structural analysis defines one pathway by which site specificity is augmented for a homing endonuclease.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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