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Eur J Biochem. 1981 Apr;115(2):293-6.

Cation dependence of restriction endonuclease EcoRI activity.


Restriction endonuclease EcoRI cleaves the DNA sequence 5'd(-G-A-A-T-T-C-) under optimum digestion conditions. A variation in pH and ionic strength can result in EcoRI activity when 5'd(-A-A-T-T-) is cut. A divalent cation, usually Mg2+, is required for enzyme activity, though Mn2+ can also be used. Eight different cations with ionic radius/charge ratios similar to Mg2+ were tested and Co2+ and Zn2+ were also found to act as cofactors for EcoRI. A comprehensive study has been made of the effect of NaCl and pH on the EcoRI/EcoRI transition in the presence of the above four cations. Generally, a decrease in NaCl and/or an increase in pH caused a decrease in enzyme specificity. The changeover depended on the cation. They may be placed in order of their ability to increase EcoRI specificity thus: Co2+ greater than Zn2+ greater than Mg2+ greater than Mn2+. The Km of EcoRI for ColE1 DNA, in the presence of Co2+, was found to be 0.4 nM, compared to 3 nM with Mg2+, whereas the turnover was only one double-stranded scission/min with Co2+ compared to eight/min with Mg2+. The implications of all these findings on the enzyme's mechanism are discussed.

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