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Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Apr;15(4):2157-65.

Interaction of p53 with its consensus DNA-binding site.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, State University of New York, Stony Brook 11794.


We have analyzed the specific interaction of murine p53 with the consensus DNA-binding sequence 5'-AGACATGCCT-AGACATGCCT-3'. We used segments of p53 lacking the C-terminal, nonspecific DNA-binding domain because the presence of an autonomous nonspecific DNA-binding domain in wild-type p53 would complicate analysis of site-specific DNA binding. p53 amino acids 1 to 360 bind the consensus sequence as tetramers, and DNA binding promotes tetramer-tetramer interactions. p53 amino acids 80 to 290, lacking both the nonspecific DNA-binding and tetramerization domains, consistently bind consensus DNA as four monomers and only as four monomers. The virtual absence of stable binding by fewer than four monomers, even at low concentrations of p53, argues that binding by amino acids 80 to 290 is strongly cooperative. Because p53 tetramers and monomers do not simultaneously bind a single DNA consensus sequence, we conclude that a single tetramer of wild-type p53 engages the recognition sequences of the entire DNA consensus site. We further show that consensus DNA consists of two functional half-sites. Insertions, deletions, or rearrangements within the half-sites reduce DNA binding dramatically. In contrast, two half-sites separated by insertions bind p53 relatively efficiently. Insertions that place half-sites on opposite faces of the DNA helix reduce DNA binding more than insertions that place half-sites on the same face of the helix. Transcription studies, in vivo, strongly confirm the rotational specificity of the p53 interaction with consensus DNA. The ability of single p53 tetramers to bind separated DNA half-sites argues that p53 has a flexible tetramerization region.

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