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J Mol Biol. 2008 Feb 22;376(3):771-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.11.101. Epub 2007 Dec 7.

Functional characterization of the Escherichia coli Fis-DNA binding sequence.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222, USA.


The Escherichia coli protein Fis is remarkable for its ability to interact specifically with DNA sites of highly variable sequences. The mechanism of this sequence-flexible DNA recognition is not well understood. In a previous study, we examined the contributions of Fis residues to high-affinity binding at different DNA sequences using alanine-scanning mutagenesis and identified several key residues for Fis-DNA recognition. In this work, we investigated the contributions of the 15-bp core Fis binding sequence and its flanking regions to Fis-DNA interactions. Systematic base-pair replacements made in both half sites of a palindromic Fis binding sequence were examined for their effects on the relative Fis binding affinity. Missing contact assays were also used to examine the effects of base removal within the core binding site and its flanking regions on the Fis-DNA binding affinity. The results revealed that: (1) the -7G and +3Y bases in both DNA strands (relative to the central position of the core binding site) are major determinants for high-affinity binding; (2) the C(5) methyl group of thymine, when present at the +4 position, strongly hinders Fis binding; and (3) AT-rich sequences in the central and flanking DNA regions facilitate Fis-DNA interactions by altering the DNA structure and by increasing the local DNA flexibility. We infer that the degeneracy of specific Fis binding sites results from the numerous base-pair combinations that are possible at noncritical DNA positions (from -6 to -4, from -2 to +2, and from +4 to +6), with only moderate penalties on the binding affinity, the roughly similar contributions of -3A or G and +3T or C to the binding affinity, and the minimal requirement of three of the four critical base pairs to achieve considerably high binding affinities.

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