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Molecules. 2019 Jul 9;24(13). pii: E2508. doi: 10.3390/molecules24132508.

Sequence-Specific DNA Binding by Noncovalent Peptide-Azocyclodextrin Dimer Complex as a Suitable Model for Conformational Fuzziness.

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Depto. Química-Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahía Blanca 8000 Argentina.
NMR and Structure Analysis, Department of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.
Faculty of Chemistry, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstr. 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany.
Depto. Química-Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahía Blanca 8000 Argentina.
Faculty of Chemistry, Bielefeld University, Universitätsstr. 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany.


Transcription factors are proteins lying at the endpoint of signaling pathways that control the complex process of DNA transcription. Typically, they are structurally disordered in the inactive state, but in response to an external stimulus, like a suitable ligand, they change their conformation, thereby activating DNA transcription in a spatiotemporal fashion. The observed disorder or fuzziness is functionally beneficial because it can add adaptability, versatility, and reversibility to the interaction. In this context, mimetics of the basic region of the GCN4 transcription factor (Tf) and their interaction with dsDNA sequences would be suitable models to explore the concept of conformational fuzziness experimentally. Herein, we present the first example of a system that mimics the DNA sequence-specific recognition by the GCN4 Tf through the formation of a non- covalent tetra-component complex: peptide-azoβ-CyD(dimer)-peptide-DNA. The non-covalent complex is constructed on the one hand by a 30 amino acid peptide corresponding to the basic region of GCN4 and functionalized with an adamantane moiety, and on the other hand an allosteric receptor, the azoCyDdimer, that has an azobenzene linker connecting two β-cyclodextrin units. The azoCyDdimer responds to light stimulus, existing as two photo-states: the first thermodynamically stable with an E:Z isomer ratio of 95:5 and the second obtained after irradiation with ultraviolet light, resulting in a photostationary state with a 60:40 E:Z ratio. Through electrophoretic shift assays and circular dichroism spectroscopy, we demonstrate that the E isomer is responsible for dimerization and recognition. The formation of the non-covalent tetra component complex occurs in the presence of the GCN4 cognate dsDNA sequence ('5-..ATGA cg TCAT..-3') but not with ('5-..ATGA c TCAT..-3') that differs in only one spacing nucleotide. Thus, we demonstrated that the tetra-component complex is formed in a specific manner that depends on the geometry of the ligand, the peptide length, and the ds DNA sequence. We hypothesized that the mechanism of interaction is sequential, and it can be described by the polymorphism model of static fuzziness. We argue that chemically modified peptides of the GCN4 Tf are suitable minimalist experimental models to investigate conformational fuzziness in protein-DNA interactions.


E:Z photoisomerization; GCN4 mimetic; conformational fuzziness; peptides–DNA

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