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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Sep 1;39(16):7124-33. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr396. Epub 2011 May 19.

Cross-linking of DNA through HMGA1 suggests a DNA scaffold.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Department of Biotechnology and Biophysics, University of Wuerzburg, Biocenter, Am Hubland, D-97074 Wuerzburg, Germany.


Binding of proteins to DNA is usually considered 1D with one protein bound to one DNA molecule. In principle, proteins with multiple DNA binding domains could also bind to and thereby cross-link different DNA molecules. We have investigated this possibility using high-mobility group A1 (HMGA1) proteins, which are architectural elements of chromatin and are involved in the regulation of multiple DNA-dependent processes. Using direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM), we could show that overexpression of HMGA1a-eGFP in Cos-7 cells leads to chromatin aggregation. To investigate if HMGA1a is directly responsible for this chromatin compaction we developed a DNA cross-linking assay. We were able to show for the first time that HMGA1a can cross-link DNA directly. Detailed analysis using point mutated proteins revealed a novel DNA cross-linking domain. Electron microscopy indicates that HMGA1 proteins are able to create DNA loops and supercoils in linearized DNA confirming the cross-linking ability of HMGA1a. This capacity has profound implications for the spatial organization of DNA in the cell nucleus and suggests cross-linking activities for additional nuclear proteins.

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