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Biochemistry. 1994 Aug 30;33(34):10215-9.

Pausing of the restriction endonuclease EcoRI during linear diffusion on DNA.

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Institut für Biochemie, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Heinrich-Buff-Ring, Giessen, Germany.


Linear diffusion is a mechanism to accelerate association rates beyond their three-dimensional diffusional limit. It is employed by the restriction endonuclease EcoRI as well as many other proteins interacting with specific DNA sequences to locate their target sites on the macromolecular substrate. In order to investigate biochemical and biophysical details of the linear diffusion process, we have developed a competitive cleavage assay which allows us to assess with great accuracy the influence of sequence, sequence context, and other structural features on the linear diffusion of EcoRI on DNA. We show here that linear diffusion is not a hopping but a sliding movement in which EcoRI follows the helical pitch of the DNA, because it does not "overlook" any cleavage site. Linear diffusion is slowed when EcoRI encounters sites on the DNA which resemble its recognition site ("star" sites). Pauses of up to 20 s are induced, depending on sequence and orientation of the star site. These data suggest that EcoRI can bind to DNA in two binding modes: one tight, specific, and immobile, leading to DNA cleavage, and another one loose and nonspecific, allowing for linear diffusion. Depending on the similarity between the recognition sequence and the DNA sequence being encountered by EcoRI, there will be a continuous transition between these binding modes. Other proteins bound to the DNA and irregular DNA structures such as bent DNA or a triple helix constitute a barrier that cannot easily be passed by EcoRI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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