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J Mol Biol. 2004 Aug 27;341(5):1145-59.

Cooperative binding of tetrameric p53 to DNA.

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Cambridge University Chemical Laboratory and Cambridge Centre for Protein Engineering, Medical Research Council Centre, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2QH, United Kingdom.


We analysed by analytical ultracentrifugation and fluorescence anisotropy the binding of p53 truncation mutants to sequence-specific DNA. The synthetic 30 base-pair DNA oligomers contained the 20 base-pair recognition elements for p53, consisting of four sites of five base-pairs per p53 monomer. We found that the binding at low ionic strengths was obscured by artifacts of non-specific binding and so made measurements at higher ionic strengths. Analytical ultracentrifugation of the construct p53CT (residues 94-360, containing the DNA-binding core and tetramerization domains) gave a dissociation constant of approximately 3 microM for its dimer-tetramer equilibrium, similar to that of full-length protein. Analytical ultracentrifugation and fluorescence anisotropy showed that p53CT formed a complex with the DNA constructs with 2:1 stoichiometry (dimer:DNA). The binding of p53CT (1-100 nm range) to DNA was highly cooperative, with a Hill coefficient of 1.8 (dimer:DNA). The dimeric L344A mutant of p53CT has impaired tetramerization. It bound to full-length DNA p53 recognition sequence, but with sixfold less affinity than wild-type protein. It did not form a detectable complex with a 30-mer DNA construct containing two specific five base-pair sites and two random sites, emphasizing the high co-operativity of the binding. The fundamental active unit of p53 appears to be the tetramer, which is induced by DNA binding, although it is a dimer at low concentrations.

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