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PLoS Comput Biol. 2010 Nov 18;6(11):e1001000. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001000.

How cations can assist DNase I in DNA binding and hydrolysis.

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CNRS UPR9080, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, Paris, France.


DNase I requires Ca²+ and Mg²+ for hydrolyzing double-stranded DNA. However, the number and the location of DNase I ion-binding sites remain unclear, as well as the role of these counter-ions. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we show that bovine pancreatic (bp) DNase I contains four ion-binding pockets. Two of them strongly bind Ca²+ while the other two sites coordinate Mg²+. These theoretical results are strongly supported by revisiting crystallographic structures that contain bpDNase I. One Ca²+ stabilizes the functional DNase I structure. The presence of Mg²+ in close vicinity to the catalytic pocket of bpDNase I reinforces the idea of a cation-assisted hydrolytic mechanism. Importantly, Poisson-Boltzmann-type electrostatic potential calculations demonstrate that the divalent cations collectively control the electrostatic fit between bpDNase I and DNA. These results improve our understanding of the essential role of cations in the biological function of bpDNase I. The high degree of conservation of the amino acids involved in the identified cation-binding sites across DNase I and DNase I-like proteins from various species suggests that our findings generally apply to all DNase I-DNA interactions.

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