RecA binding to a single double-stranded DNA molecule: A possible role of DNA conformational fluctuations

J. F. Leger, J. Robert, L. Bourdieu, D. Chatenay*, J. F. Marko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Most genetic regulatory mechanisms involve protein-DNA interactions. In these processes, the classical Watson-Crick DNA structure sometimes is distorted severely, which in turn enables the precise recognition of the specific sites by the protein. Despite its key importance, very little is known about such deformation processes. To address this general question, we have studied a model system, namely, RecA binding to double-stranded DNA. Results from micro-manipulation experiments indicate that RecA binds strongly to stretched DNA; based on this observation, we propose that spontaneous thermal stretching fluctuations may play a role in the binding of RecA to DNA. This has fundamental implications for the protein-DNA binding mechanism, which must therefore rely in part on a combination of flexibility and thermal fluctuations of the DNA structure. We also show that this mechanism is sequence sensitive. Theoretical simulations support this interpretation of our experimental results, and it is argued that this is of broad relevance to DNA-protein interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12295-12299
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - Oct 13 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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