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Bacterial iron storage proteins such as ferritin serve as intracellular iron reserves. Members of the DNA protection during starvation (Dps) family of proteins are structurally related to ferritins, and their function is to protect the genome from iron-induced free radical damage. Some members of the Dps family bind DNA and are thought to do so only as fully assembled dodecamers. We present the cloning and characterization of a Dps homolog encoded by the radiation-resistant eubacterium Deinococcus radiodurans and show that DNA binding does not require its assembly into a dodecamer. D. radiodurans Dps-1, the product of gene DR2263, adopts a stably folded conformation, as demonstrated by circular dichroism spectroscopy, and undergoes a transition to a disordered state with a melting temperature of 69.2(±0.1)°C. While a dimeric form of Dps-1 is observed under low-salt conditions, a dodecameric assembly is highly favored at higher concentrations of salt. Both oligomeric forms of Dps-1 exhibit ferroxidase activity, and Fe(II) oxidation/mineralization is seen for dodecameric Dps-1. Notably, addition of Ca2+ (to millimolar concentrations) to dodecameric Dps-1 can result in the reduction of bound Fe(III). Dimeric Dps-1 protects DNA from both hydroxyl radical cleavage and from DNase I-mediated cleavage; however, dodecameric Dps-1 is unable to provide efficient protection against hydroxyl radical-mediated DNA cleavage. While dodecameric Dps-1 does bind DNA, resulting in formation of large aggregates, cooperative DNA binding by dimeric Dps-1 leads to formation of protein-DNA complexes of finite stoichiometry. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Molecular Biology

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