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Genes Dev. 2012 Jan 1;26(1):92-104. doi: 10.1101/gad.179085.111.

Structure and operation of the DNA-translocating type I DNA restriction enzymes.

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  • 1Astbury Centre, Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.


Type I DNA restriction/modification (RM) enzymes are molecular machines found in the majority of bacterial species. Their early discovery paved the way for the development of genetic engineering. They control (restrict) the influx of foreign DNA via horizontal gene transfer into the bacterium while maintaining sequence-specific methylation (modification) of host DNA. The endonuclease reaction of these enzymes on unmethylated DNA is preceded by bidirectional translocation of thousands of base pairs of DNA toward the enzyme. We present the structures of two type I RM enzymes, EcoKI and EcoR124I, derived using electron microscopy (EM), small-angle scattering (neutron and X-ray), and detailed molecular modeling. DNA binding triggers a large contraction of the open form of the enzyme to a compact form. The path followed by DNA through the complexes is revealed by using a DNA mimic anti-restriction protein. The structures reveal an evolutionary link between type I RM enzymes and type II RM enzymes.

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