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J Mol Biol. 1998 Oct 30;283(3):537-47.

Binding of the fur (ferric uptake regulator) repressor of Escherichia coli to arrays of the GATAAT sequence.

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Department of Microbial Biotechnology, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC, Madrid, 28049, Spain.


The mode of DNA binding of the Fur (ferric uptake regulator) repressor which controls transcription of iron-responsive genes in Escherichia coli, has been re-examined. Using as a reference the known sites at the promoter of the aerobactin operon of Escherichia coli, we have compared in detail the patterns of interaction between the purified Fur protein and natural or synthetic DNA targets. DNase I and hydroxyl radical footprinting, as well as missing-T assays, consistently revealed that functional Fur sites are composed of a minimum of three repeats of the hexameric motif GATAAT rather than by a palindromic 19 bp target sequence. Extended binding sites, constructed by stepwise addition of one or two direct repeats of the same sequence, were occupied co-operatively by Fur with the same pattern of interactions as those observed with the core of three repeats. This indicated that functional sites with a range of affinities can be formed by the addition of discrete GATAAT extensions to a minimal recognition sequence. The fashion in which Fur binds its target, virtually unknown in prokaryotic transcriptional regulators, accounts for the observed helical wrapping of the protein around the DNA helix.

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