DNA surface exploration and operator bypassing during target search.

Marklund E, van Oosten B, Mao G, Amselem E, Kipper K, Sabantsev A, Emmerich A, Globisch D, Zheng X, Lehmann LC, Berg OG, Johansson M, Elf J, Deindl S

Nature 583 (7818) 858-861 [2020-07-00; online 2020-06-24]

Many proteins that bind specific DNA sequences search the genome by combining three-dimensional diffusion with one-dimensional sliding on nonspecific DNA1-5. Here we combine resonance energy transfer and fluorescence correlation measurements to characterize how individual lac repressor (LacI) molecules explore the DNA surface during the one-dimensional phase of target search. To track the rotation of sliding LacI molecules on the microsecond timescale, we use real-time single-molecule confocal laser tracking combined with fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (SMCT-FCS). The fluctuations in fluorescence signal are accurately described by rotation-coupled sliding, in which LacI traverses about 40 base pairs (bp) per revolution. This distance substantially exceeds the 10.5-bp helical pitch of DNA; this suggests that the sliding protein frequently hops out of the DNA groove, which would result in the frequent bypassing of target sequences. We directly observe such bypassing using single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET). A combined analysis of the smFRET and SMCT-FCS data shows that LacI hops one or two grooves (10-20 bp) every 200-700 μs. Our data suggest a trade-off between speed and accuracy during sliding: the weak nature of nonspecific protein-DNA interactions underlies operator bypassing, but also speeds up sliding. We anticipate that SMCT-FCS, which monitors rotational diffusion on the microsecond timescale while tracking individual molecules with millisecond resolution, will be applicable to the real-time investigation of many other biological interactions and will effectively extend the accessible time regime for observing these interactions by two orders of magnitude.

Daniel Globisch

Fellows programme

Sebastian Deindl

PubMed 32581356

DOI 10.1038/s41586-020-2413-7

Crossref 10.1038/s41586-020-2413-7

pii: 10.1038/s41586-020-2413-7