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Nature. 1999 Jul 1;400(6739):83-5.

DNA protection by stress-induced biocrystallization.

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Department of Organic Chemistry, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


The crystalline state is considered to be incompatible with life. However, in living systems exposed to severe environmental assaults, the sequestration of vital macromolecules in intracellular crystalline assemblies may provide an efficient means for protection. Here we report a generic defence strategy found in Escherichia coli, involving co-crystallization of its DNA with the stress-induced protein Dps. We show that when purified Dps and DNA interact, extremely stable crystals form almost instantaneously, within which DNA is sequestered and effectively protected against varied assaults. Crystalline structures with similar lattice spacings are formed in E. coli in which Dps is slightly over expressed, as well as in starved wild-type bacteria. Hence, DNA-Dps co-crystallization is proposed to represent a binding mode that provides wide-range protection of DNA by sequestration. The rapid induction and large-scale production of Dps in response to stress, as well as the presence of Dps homologues in many distantly related bacteria, indicate that DNA protection by biocrystallization may be crucial and widespread in prokaryotes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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