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Molecular mechanism of methyl-dependent and spatial-specific DNA recognition of c-Jun homodimer

  • Bie, Li-Hua1
  • Fei, Jun-Wen1
  • Gao, Jun1
  • 1 Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, 430070, People’s Republic of China , Wuhan (China)
Published Article
Journal of Molecular Modeling
Publication Date
Jul 15, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s00894-021-04840-y
Springer Nature
  • Original Paper


DNA methylation is important in regulation of gene expression and normal development because it alters the interplay between protein and DNA. Experiments have shown that a single 5-methylcytosine at different CpG sites (mCpG) might have different effects on specific recognition, but the atomistic origin and dynamic details are largely unclear. In this work, we investigated the mechanism of monomethylation at different CpG sites in the cognate motif and the cooperativity of full methylation. By constructing four models of c-Jun/Jun protein binding to the 5′\documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$^{\prime }$\end{document}-XGAGTCA-3′\documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$^{\prime }$\end{document} (X represents C or methylated C) motif, we characterized the dynamics of the contact interface using the all-atom molecular dynamics method. Free energy analysis of MM/GBSA suggests that regardless of whether the C12pG13 site of the bottom strand is methylated, the effects from mC25 of the top strand are dominant and can moderately enhance the binding by ∼\documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{upgreek} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document}$\sim $\end{document} 31 kcal/mol, whereas mC12 showed a relatively small contribution, in agreement with the experimental data. Remarkably, we found that this spatial-specific influence was induced by different regulatory rules. The influence of the mC25 site is mainly mediated by steric hindrance. The additional methyl group leads to the conformational changes in nearby residues and triggers an obvious structural bending in the protein, which results in the formation of a new T-Asn-C triad that enhances the specific recognition of TCA half-sites. The substitution of the methyl group at the mC12 site of the bottom strand breaks the original H-bonds directly. Such changes in electrostatic interactions also lead to the remote allosteric effects of protein by multifaceted interactions but have negligible contributions to binding. Although these two influence modes are different, they can both fine-tune the local environment, which might produce remote allosteric effects through protein-protein interactions. Further analysis reveals that the discrepancies in these two modes are primarily due to their location. Moreover, when both sites are methylated, the major determinant of binding specificity depends on the context and the location of the methylation site, which is the result of crosstalk and cooperativity.

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