The energetics of HMG box interactions with DNA: Thermodynamics of the DNA binding of the HMG box from mouse Sox-5

Peter L. Privalov*, Ilian Jelesarov, Christopher M. Read, Anatoly I. Dragan, Colyn Crane-Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The energetics of the Sox-5 HMG box interaction with DNA duplexes, containing the recognition sequence AACAAT, were studied by fluorescence spectroscopy, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Fluorescence titration showed that the association constant of this HMG box with the duplexes is of the order 4 x 107 M-1, increasing somewhat with temperature rise, i.e. the Gibbs energy is -40 kJ mol-1 at 5°C, decreasing to -48 kJ mol-1 at 32°C. ITC measurements of the enthalpy of association over this temperature range showed an endothermic effect below 17°C and an exothermic effect above, suggesting a heat capacity change on binding of about -4 kJ K-1 mol-1, a value twice larger than expected from structural considerations. A straightforward interpretation of ITC data in heat capacity terms assumes, however, that the heat capacities of all participants in the association reaction do not change over the considered temperature range. Our previous studies showed that over the temperature range of the ITC experiments the HMG box of Sox-5 starts to unfold, absorbing heat and the heat capacities of the DNA duplexes also increase significantly. These heat capacity effects differ from that of the DNA/Sox-5 complex. Correcting the ITC measured binding enthalpies for the heat capacity changes of the components and complex yielded the net enthalpies which exhibit a temperature dependence of about -2 kJ K-1 mol-1, in good agreement with that predicted on the basis of dehydration of the protein-DNA interface. Using the derived heat capacity change and the enthalpy and Gibbs energy of association measured at 5°C, the net enthalpy and entropy of association of the fully folded HMG box with the target DNA duplexes was determined over a broad temperature range. These functions were compared with those for other known cases of sequence specific DNA/protein association. It appears that the enthalpy and entropy of association of minor groove binding proteins are more positive than for proteins binding in the major groove. The observed thermodynamic characteristics of protein binding to the A + T-rich minor groove of DNA might result from dehydration of both polar and non-polar groups at the interface and release of counterions. The expected entropy of dehydration was calculated and found to be too large to be compensated by the negative entropy of reduction of translational/rotational freedom. This implies that DNA/HMG box association proceeds with significant decrease of conformational entropy, i.e. reduction in conformational mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1013
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 1999


  • Energetics
  • Enthalpy
  • HMG box
  • Minor groove
  • Protein-DNA association


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