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J Biol Chem. 2001 Feb 2;276(5):3353-60. Epub 2000 Oct 16.

DNA recognition by the methyl-CpG binding domain of MeCP2.

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Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JR, United Kingdom.


The methyl-CpG binding domain (MBD) of the transcriptional repressor MeCP2 has been proposed to recognize a single symmetrically methylated CpG base pair via hydrophobic patches on an otherwise positively charged DNA binding surface. We have tested this binding model by analysis of mutant derivatives of the MeCP2 MBD in electrophoretic mobility shift assays complemented by NMR structural analysis. Exposed arginine side chains on the binding face, in particular Arg-111, were found to be critical for binding. Arg-111 was found to interact with the conserved aspartate side chain Asp-121, which is proposed to orientate the arginine side chain to allow specific contacts with the DNA. The conformational flexibility of the disordered B-C loop region, which forms part of the binding face, was also shown to be important. In contrast, mutation of the exposed hydrophobic side chains had a less severe effect on DNA binding. This suggests that the Arg-111 side chain may contribute to sequence-specific recognition of the CpG site rather than simply making nonspecific contacts with the phosphate backbone. The majority of missense mutations within the MBD found in the human genetic disorder Rett syndrome were shown or predicted to affect folding of the domain rather than the DNA recognition event directly.

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