Histone-like Protein HU from Deinococcus radiodurans Binds Preferentially to Four-way DNA Junctions

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The histone-like protein HU from Escherichia coli is involved in DNA compaction and in processes such as DNA repair and recombination. Its participation in these events is reflected in its ability to bend DNA and in its preferred binding to DNA junctions and DNA with single-strand breaks. Deinococcus radiodurans is unique in its ability to reconstitute its genome from double strand breaks incurred after exposure to ionizing radiation. Using electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA), we show that D.radiodurans HU (DrHU) binds preferentially only to DNA junctions, with half-maximal saturation of 18nM. In distinct contrast to E.coli HU, DrHU does not exhibit a marked preference for DNA with nicks or gaps compared to perfect duplex DNA, nor is it able to mediate circularization of linear duplex DNA. These unexpected properties identify DrHU as the first member of the HU protein family not to serve an architectural role and point to its potential participation in DNA recombination events. Our data also point to a mechanism whereby differential target site selection by HU proteins is achieved and suggest that the substrate specificity of HU proteins should be expected to vary as a consequence of their individual capacity for inducing the required DNA bend. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Molecular Biology

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