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J Biol Chem. 1999 Jul 2;274(27):19281-5.

Binding studies with mutants of Zif268. Contribution of individual side chains to binding affinity and specificity in the Zif268 zinc finger-DNA complex.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


The Zif268 zinc finger-DNA complex has served as a model system for understanding how Cys2His2 type zinc fingers recognize DNA. Structural studies of the Zif268-DNA complex revealed that residues at four positions in the alpha helix of each zinc finger play key roles in recognition, but there has been no information about the precise contributions of individual residues. Here we report the results of binding studies involving five mutants of Zif268 that have changes in the base-contacting residues of finger one. These studies let us evaluate the contributions that Arg18 (position -1 of the alpha helix), Asp20 (position 2), Glu21 (position 3), and Arg24 (position 6) make to the overall energy of DNA binding. Our results confirm the important role played by these arginines. By comparing the affinities of the wild type and mutant peptides for various sites, we also prove that Asp20 and Glu21 play important roles in determining binding site specificity.

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