Alternative geometries of DNA looping: an analysis using the SfiI endonuclease

M. Watson, Darren Gowers, S. Halford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many processes are governed by proteins that bind to separate sites in DNA and loop out the intervening DNA, but the geometries of the loops have seldom been determined. The SfiI endonuclease cleaves DNA after interacting with two recognition sites, and is a favourable system for the analysis of DNA looping. A gel-shift assay was used here to examine the binding of SfiI to a series of linear DNA molecules containing two SfiI sites separated by 109–170 base-pairs. The complexes in which SfiI trapped a loop by binding to two sites in the same DNA were separated from the complexes containing SfiI bound to separate DNA molecules. Step-wise changes in the inter-site spacing generated two forms of the looped complex with different electrophoretic mobilities. The yields of each looped complex and the complexes from intermolecular synapses all varied cyclically with the inter-site spacing, with similar periodicities (∼10.5 base-pairs) but with different phases. One looped complex predominated whenever the DNA between the sites needed to be underwound in order to produce the correct helical orientation of the binding sites. The other looped complex predominated whenever the intervening DNA needed to be overwound. We conclude that the former has trapped a right-handed loop with a negative node and the latter a left-handed loop with a positive node.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-475
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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