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J Biol Chem. 1990 May 25;265(15):8573-82.

The A.T-DNA-binding domain of mammalian high mobility group I chromosomal proteins. A novel peptide motif for recognizing DNA structure.

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Department of Biochemistry/Biophysics, Washington State University, Pullman 99164.


We have determined the domains of the mammalian high mobility group (HMG)I chromosomal proteins necessary and sufficient for binding to the narrow minor groove of stretches of A.T-rich DNA. Three highly conserved regions within each of the known HMG-I proteins is closely related to the consensus sequence T-P-K-R-P-R-G-R-P-K-K. A synthetic oligopeptide corresponding to this consensus "binding domain" (BD) sequence specifically binds to substrate DNA in a manner similar to the intact HMG-I proteins. Molecular Corey-Pauling-Koltun model building and computer simulations employing energy minimization programs to predict structure suggest that the consensus BD peptide has a secondary structure similar to the antitumor and antiviral drugs netropsin and distamycin and to the dye Hoechst 33258. In vitro these ligands, which also preferentially bind to A.T-rich DNA, have been demonstrated to effectively compete with both the BD peptide and the HMG-I proteins for DNA binding. The BD peptide also contains novel structural features such as a predicted Asx bend or "hook" at its amino-terminal end and laterally projecting cationic Arg/Lys side chains or "bristles" which may contribute to the binding properties of the HMG-I proteins. The predicted BD peptide structure, which we refer to as the "A.T-hook," represents a previously undescribed DNA-binding motif capable of binding to the minor groove of stretches of A.T base pairs.

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