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Mol Microbiol. 2000 May;36(4):962-72.

Oligomerization of the chromatin-structuring protein H-NS.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK.


H-NS is a major component of the bacterial nucleoid, involved in condensing and packaging DNA and modulating gene expression. The mechanism by which this is achieved remains unclear. Genetic data show that the biological properties of H-NS are influenced by its oligomerization properties. We have applied a variety of biophysical techniques to study the structural basis of oligomerization of the H-NS protein from Salmonella typhimurium. The N-terminal 89 amino acids are responsible for oligomerization. The first 64 residues form a trimer dominated by an alpha-helix, likely to be in coiled-coil conformation. Extending this polypeptide to 89 amino acids generated higher order, heterodisperse oligomers. Similarly, in the full-length protein no single, defined oligomeric state is adopted. The C-terminal 48 residues do not participate in oligomerization and form a monomeric, DNA-binding domain. These N- and C-terminal domains are joined via a flexible linker which enables them to function independently within the context of the full-length protein. This novel mode of oligomerization may account for the unusual binding properties of H-NS.

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