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Estimation of Forster's distance between two ends of Dps protein from mycobacteria: Distance heterogeneity as a function of oligomerization and DNA binding

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  • Molecular Biophysics Unit
  • Biology


Dps protein (DNA binding Protein from Starved Cells) from Mycobacterium smegmatis (Ms-Dps) is known to undergo an in vitro irreversible oligomeric transition from trimer to dodecamer. This transition helps the protein to provide for bimodal protection to the bacterial DNA from the free radical and Fenton mediated damages in the stationary state. The protein exists as a stable trimer, when purified from E. coli cells transformed with an over-expression plasmid. Both trimer as well as dodecamer are known to exhibit ferroxidation activity, thus removing toxic hydroxyl radicals in vivo, whereas iron accumulation and non- sequence specific DNA binding activity are found in dodecamer only. This seems to be aided by the positively charged long C-terminal tail of the protein. We used frequency domain phase-modulation fluorescence spectroscopy and Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) to monitor this oligomeric switch from a trimer to a dodecamer and to elucidate the structure of DNA–Dps dodecamer complex. As Ms-Dps is devoid of any Cysteine residues, a Serine is mutated to Cysteine (S169C) at a position adjacent to the putative DNA binding domain. This Cysteine is subsequently labeled with fluorescent probe and another probe is placed at the N-terminus, as crystal structure of the protein reveals several side-chain interactions between these two termini, and both are exposed towards the surface of the protein. Here, we report the Forster's distance distribution in the trimer and the dodecamer in the presence and absence of DNA. Through discrete lifetime analysis of the probes tagged at the respective regions in the macromolecule, coupled with Maximum Entropy Method (MEM) analysis, we show that the dodecamer, upon DNA binding shows conformational heterogeneity in overall structure, perhaps mediated by a non-specific DNA– protein interaction. On the other hand, the nature of DNA–Dps interaction is not known and several models exist in literature. We show here with the help of fluorescence anisotropy measurements of labeled DNA having different length and unlabeled native dodecameric protein that tandem occupation of DNA binding sites by a series of Dps molecules perhaps guide the tight packing of Dps over DNA backbone.

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