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EMBO J. 1994 Oct 3;13(19):4536-48.

Architectural elements in nucleoprotein complexes: interchangeability of specific and non-specific DNA binding proteins.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, NIMH, Bethesda, MD 20892-4034.


Integration host factor (IHF) is required in lambda site-specific recombination to deform the DNA substrates into conformations active for recombination. HU, a homolog of IHF, can also deform DNA but binds without any apparent sequence specificity. We demonstrate that HU can replace IHF by cooperating with the recombinase protein, integrase, to generate a stable and specific complex with electrophoretic mobility and biochemical activity very close to the complex formed by IHF and integrase. The eukaryotic HMG1 and HMG2 proteins differ entirely in structure from HU but they also bind DNA non-specifically and induce or stabilize deformed DNA. We show that the eukaryotic HMG1 and HMG2 proteins cooperate with integrase at least as well as does HU to make a defined structure. We also find that the eukaryotic core histone dimer H2A-H2B can replace IHF, suggesting that the histone dimer is functional outside the context of a nucleosome. HU and the HMG proteins not only contribute to the formation of stable complexes, but they can at least partially replace IHF for the integrative and excisive recombination reactions. These results, together with our analysis of nucleoprotein complexes made with damaged recombination sites, lead us to conclude that the cooperation between HU and integrase does not depend on protein-protein contacts. Rather, cooperation is manifested through building of higher order structures and depends on the capacity of the non-specific DNA binding proteins to bend DNA. While all these non-specific binding proteins appear to fulfil the same bending function, they do so with different efficiencies. This probably reflects subtle structural differences between the assembled complexes.

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