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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.


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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