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Nature. 1988 Mar 31;332(6163):464-8.

Structure refined to 2A of a nicked DNA octanucleotide complex with DNase I.

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  • 1European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Biological Structures Division, Heidelberg, FRG.


The cutting rates of bovine pancreatic deoxyribonuclease I (DNase I) vary along a given DNA sequence, indicating that the enzyme recognizes sequence-dependent structural variations of the DNA double-helix. In an attempt to define the helical parameters determining this sequence-dependence, we have co-crystallized a complex of DNase I with a self-complementary octanucleotide and refined the crystal structure at 2 A resolution. This structure confirms the basic features of an early model, namely that an exposed loop of DNase I binds in the minor groove of B-type DNA and that interactions do occur with the backbone of both strands. Nicked octamer duplexes that have lost a dinucleotide from the 3'-end of one strand are hydrogen-bonded across a two-fold axis in the crystal to form a quasi-continuous double helix of 14 base pairs. The DNA 14-mer has a B-type conformation and shows substantial distortion of both local and overall helix parameters, induced mainly by the tight interaction of Y73 and R38 in the unusually wide minor groove. Directly coupled to the widening of the groove by approximately 3A is a 21.5 degree bend of the DNA away from the bound enzyme towards the major groove, suggesting that both DNA stiffness and groove width are important in determining the sequence-dependence of the enzyme cutting rate. A second cut of the DNA which is induced by diffusion of Mn2+ into the co-crystals suggests that there are two active sites in DNase I separated by more than 15A.

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