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EMBO J. 1998 Dec 1;17(23):7139-48.

ATP-dependent aggregation of single-stranded DNA by a bacterial SMC homodimer.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, PO Box 100, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA.


SMC (structural maintenance of chromosomes) proteins are putative ATPases that are highly conserved among Bacteria, Archaea and Eucarya. Eukaryotic SMC proteins are implicated in a diverse range of chromosome dynamics including chromosome condensation, dosage compensation and recombinational repair. In eukaryotes, two different SMC proteins form a heterodimer, which in turn acts as the core component of a large protein complex. Despite recent progress, no ATP-dependent activity has been found in individual SMC subunits. We report here the first biochemical characterization of a bacterial SMC protein from Bacillus subtilis. Unlike eukaryotic versions, the B.subtilis SMC protein (BsSMC) is a simple homodimer with no associated subunits. It binds preferentially to single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) and has a ssDNA-stimulated ATPase activity. In the presence of ATP, BsSMC forms large nucleoprotein aggregates in a ssDNA-specific manner. Proteolytic cleavage of BsSMC is changed upon binding to ATP and ssDNA. The energy-dependent aggregation of ssDNA might represent a primitive type of chromosome condensation that occurs during segregation of bacterial chromosomes.

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