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Nat Struct Biol. 2003 Mar;10(3):212-8.

The H-NS dimerization domain defines a new fold contributing to DNA recognition.

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Centre de Biochimie Structurale, CNRS-UMR 5048, INSERM-U554, Université de Montpellier I, 29 rue de Navacelles, 34090 Montpellier, France.


H-NS, a protein found in Gram-negative bacteria, is involved in structuring the bacterial chromosome and acts as a global regulator for the expression of a wide variety of genes. These functions are correlated with both its DNA-binding and oligomerization properties. We have identified the minimal dimerization domain of H-NS, a 46 amino acid-long N-terminal fragment, and determined its structure using heteronuclear NMR spectroscopy. The highly intertwined structure of the dimer, reminiscent of a handshake, defines a new structural fold, which may offer a possibility for discriminating prokaryotic from eukaryotic proteins in drug design. Using mutational analysis, we also show that this N-terminal domain actively contributes to DNA binding, conversely to the current paradigm. Together, our data allows us to propose a model for the action of full length H-NS.

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