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J Mol Biol. 1986 Feb 20;187(4):603-15.

Salt-dependent changes in the DNA binding co-operativity of Escherichia coli single strand binding protein.


The co-operative nature of the binding of the Escherichia coli single strand binding protein (SSB) to single-stranded nucleic acids has been examined over a range of salt concentrations (NaCl and MgCl2) to determine if different degrees of binding co-operativity are associated with the two SSB binding modes that have been identified recently. Quantitative estimates of the binding properties, including the co-operativity parameter, omega, of SSB to single-stranded DNA and RNA homopolynucleotides have been obtained from equilibrium binding isotherms, at high salt (greater than or equal to 0.2 M-NaCl), by monitoring the fluorescence quenching of the SSB upon binding. Under these high salt conditions, where only the high site size SSB binding mode exists (65 +/- 5 nucleotides per tetramer), we find only moderate co-operativity for SSB binding to both DNA and RNA, (omega = 50 +/- 10), independent of the concentration of salt. This value for omega is much lower than most previous estimates. At lower concentrations of NaCl, where the low site size SSB binding mode (33 +/- 3 nucleotides/tetramer) exists, but where SSB affinity for single-stranded DNA is too high to estimate co-operativity from classical binding isotherms, we have used an agarose gel electrophoresis technique to qualitatively examine SSB co-operativity with single-stranded (ss) M13 phage DNA. The apparent binding co-operativity increases dramatically below 0.20 M-NaCl, as judged by the extremely non-random distribution of SSB among the ssM13 DNA population at low SSB to DNA ratios. However, the highly co-operative complexes are not at equilibrium at low SSB/DNA binding densities, but are formed only transiently when SSB and ssDNA are directly mixed at low concentrations of NaCl. The conversions of these metastable, highly co-operative SSB-ssDNA complexes to their equilibrium, low co-operativity form is very slow at low concentrations of NaCl. At equilibrium, the SSB-ssDNA complexes seem to possess the same low degree of co-operativity (omega = 50 +/- 10) under all conditions tested. However, the highly co-operative mode of SSB binding, although metastable, may be important during non-equilibrium processes such as DNA replication. The possible relation between the two SSB binding modes, which differ in site size by a factor of two, and the high and low co-operativity complexes, which we report here, is discussed.

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