A quantitative understanding of lac repressor's binding specificity and flexibility.
ABSTRACT: Lac repressor, the first discovered transcriptional regulator, has been shown to confer multiple-modes of binding to its operator sites depending on the central spacer length. Other homolog members in the LacI/GalR family (PurR and YcjW) cannot bind their operator sites with similar structural flexibility. To decipher the underlying mechanism for this unique property, we used Spec-seq approach combined with site-directed mutagenesis to quantify the DNA binding specificity of multiple hybrids of lacI and PurR. We find that lac repressor's recognition di-residues YQ and its hinge helix loop regions are both critical for its structural flexibility. Also, specificity profiling of the whole lac operator suggests that a simple additive model from single variants suffice to predict other multivariant sites' energy reasonably well, and the genome occupancy model based on this specificity data correlates well with in vivo lac repressor binding profile.
Project description:Knowing the specificity of transcription factors is critical to understanding regulatory networks in cells. The lac repressor-operator system has been studied for many years, but not with high-throughput methods capable of determining specificity comprehensively. Details of its binding interaction and its selection of an asymmetric binding site have been controversial. We employed a new method to accurately determine relative binding affinities to thousands of sequences simultaneously, requiring only sequencing of bound and unbound fractions. An analysis of 2560 different DNA sequence variants, including both base changes and variations in operator length, provides a detailed view of lac repressor sequence specificity. We find that the protein can bind with nearly equal affinities to operators of three different lengths, but the sequence preference changes depending on the length, demonstrating alternative modes of interaction between the protein and DNA. The wild-type operator has an odd length, causing the two monomers to bind in alternative modes, making the asymmetric operator the preferred binding site. We tested two other members of the LacI/GalR protein family and find that neither can bind with high affinity to sites with alternative lengths or shows evidence of alternative binding modes. A further comparison with known and predicted motifs suggests that the lac repressor may be unique in this ability and that this may contribute to its selection.
Project description:Lac repressor (LacI) binds two operator DNA sites, looping the intervening DNA. DNA molecules containing two lac operators bracketing a sequence-directed bend were previously shown to form hyperstable LacI-looped complexes. Biochemical studies suggested that orienting the operators outward relative to the bend direction (in construct 9C14) stabilizes a positively supercoiled closed form, with a V-shaped LacI, but that the most stable loop construct (11C12) is a more open form. Here, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) is measured on DNA loops, between fluorescein and TAMRA attached near the two operators, approximately 130 basepairs apart. For 9C14, efficient LacI-induced energy transfer ( approximately 74% based on donor quenching) confirms that the designed DNA shape can force the looped complex into a closed form. From enhanced acceptor emission, correcting for observed donor-dependent quenching of acceptor fluorescence, approximately 52% transfer was observed. Time-resolved FRET suggests that this complex exists in both closed- and open form populations. Less efficient transfer, approximately 10%, was detected for DNA-LacI sandwiches and 11C12-LacI, consistent with an open form loop. This demonstration of long-range FRET in large DNA loops confirms that appropriate DNA design can control loop geometry. LacI flexibility may allow it to maintain looping with other proteins bound or under different intracellular conditions.
Project description:The lac repressor protein (LacI) efficiently represses transcription of the lac operon in Escherichia coli by binding to two distant operator sites on the bacterial DNA and causing the intervening DNA to form a loop. We employed single-molecule tethered particle motion to observe LacI-mediated loop formation and breakdown in DNA constructs that incorporate optimized operator binding sites and intrinsic curvature favorable to loop formation. Previous bulk competition assays indirectly measured the loop lifetimes in these optimized DNA constructs as being on the order of days; however, we measured these same lifetimes to be on the order of minutes for both looped and unlooped states. In a range of single-molecule DNA competition experiments, we found that the resistance of the LacI-DNA complex to competitive binding is a function of both the operator strength and the interoperator sequence. To explain these findings, we present what we believe to be a new kinetic model of loop formation and DNA competition. In this proposed new model, we hypothesize a new unlooped state in which the unbound DNA-binding domain of the LacI protein interacts nonspecifically with nonoperator DNA adjacent to the operator site at which the second LacI DNA-binding domain is bound.
Project description:Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) has been used to detect binding of DNA-binding proteins to sites in nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. Here, we describe a method for detecting protein-binding sites on chloroplast DNA, using modifications to the nuclear ChIP procedures. The method was developed using the lac operator (lacO)/lac repressor (LacI) system from Escherichia coli. The lacO sequences were integrated into a single site between the rbcL and accD genes in tobacco plastid DNA and homoplasmic transplastomic plants were crossed with transgenic tobacco plants expressing a nuclear-encoded plastid-targeted GFP-LacI fusion protein. In the progeny, the GFP-LacI fusion protein could be visualized in living tissues using confocal microscopy, and was found to co-localize with plastid nucleoids. Isolated chloroplasts from the lacO/GFP-LacI plants were lysed, treated with micrococcal nuclease to digest the DNA to fragments of approximately 600 bp and incubated with antibodies to GFP and protein A-Sepharose. PCR analysis on DNA extracted from the immunoprecipitate demonstrated IPTG (isopropylthiogalactoside)-sensitive binding of GFP-LacI to lacO. Binding of GFP-LacI to endogenous sites in plastid DNA showing sequence similarity to lacO was also detected, but required reversible cross-linking with formaldehyde. This may provide a general method for the detection of binding sites on plastid DNA for specific proteins.
Project description:In this work we introduce a new high-throughput method, Spec-seq, that directly measures specificity by sequencing. It has several advantages over existing methods to quantify large collections (thousands) of binding site energies in one experiment. Using lac repressor as an example, we show that this method has excellent reproducibility giving energy measurements generally consistent within about 0.1kT. While not measuring in parallel as many different sequences as some of the higher throughput methods, we obtain high accuracies because we measure exactly what is necessary, the relative affinity to a large collection of sequences, without any mathematical fitting procedures or approximations required. It is similar to MITOMI in the number of different sites that can be analyzed in parallel, but it is much simpler to perform, requiring only a means to separate bound and unbound fractions which are then sequenced using standard high throughput, short read sequencing machines that are now readily available. When applied to the lac repressor we obtain, in a single experiment, data covering a large fraction of all the previous studies, plus thousands of additional variants, allowing us to compile a much more comprehensive profile of its specificity. We learn that the lac repressor can bind to sites of different lengths but that the preferred sequence, and the mode of binding, depends on the length. We also apply the method to two other members of the LacI/GalR protein family, PurR and YcjW, to obtain extensive models of their specificity and test the generality of the lac repressor's ability to bind to operators of variable length. We find that the lac repressor is apparently unique in its ability to bind with high affinity to sites of different lengths and with different modes of binding. 4 independent experiments.
Project description:We have performed single-molecule studies of GFP-LacI repressor proteins bound to bacteriophage lambda DNA containing a 256 tandem lac operator insertion confined in nanochannels. An integrated photon molecular counting method was developed to determine the number of proteins bound to DNA. By using this method, we determined the saturated mean occupancy of the 256 tandem lac operators to be 13, which constitutes only 2.5% of the available sites. This low occupancy level suggests that the repressors influence each other even when they are widely separated, at distances on the order of 200 nm, or several DNA persistence lengths.
Project description:Loops are ubiquitous topological elements formed when proteins simultaneously bind to two noncontiguous DNA sites. While a loop-mediating protein may regulate initiation at a promoter, the presence of the protein at the other site may be an obstacle for RNA polymerases (RNAP) transcribing a different gene. To test whether a DNA loop alters the extent to which a protein blocks transcription, the lac repressor (LacI) was used. The outcome of in vitro transcription along templates containing two LacI operators separated by 400 bp in the presence of LacI concentrations that produced both looped and unlooped molecules was visualized with scanning force microscopy (SFM). An analysis of transcription elongation complexes, moving for 60 s at an average of 10 nt/s on unlooped DNA templates, revealed that they more often surpassed LacI bound to the lower affinity O2 operator than to the highest affinity Os operator. However, this difference was abrogated in looped DNA molecules where LacI became a strong roadblock independently of the affinity of the operator. Recordings of transcription elongation complexes, using magnetic tweezers, confirmed that they halted for several minutes upon encountering a LacI bound to a single operator. The average pause lifetime is compatible with RNAP waiting for LacI dissociation, however, the LacI open conformation visualized in the SFM images also suggests that LacI could straddle RNAP to let it pass. Independently of the mechanism by which RNAP bypasses the LacI roadblock, the data indicate that an obstacle with looped topology more effectively interferes with transcription.
Project description:Transcription factors control the expression of genes by binding to specific sites in DNA and repressing or activating transcription in response to stimuli. The lac repressor (LacI) is a well characterized transcription factor that regulates the ability of bacterial cells to uptake and metabolize lactose. Here, we study the intracellular mobility and spatial distribution of LacI in live bacteria using photoactivated localization microscopy combined with single-particle tracking. Since we track single LacI molecules in live cells by stochastically photoactivating and observing fluorescent proteins individually, there are no limitations on the copy number of the protein under study; as a result, we were able to study the behavior of LacI in bacterial strains containing the natural copy numbers (?40 monomers), as well as in strains with much higher copy numbers due to LacI overexpression. Our results allowed us to determine the relative abundance of specific, near-specific, and non-specific DNA binding modes of LacI in vivo, showing that all these modes are operational inside living cells. Further, we examined the spatial distribution of LacI in live cells, confirming its specific binding to lac operator regions on the chromosome; we also showed that mobile LacI molecules explore the bacterial nucleoid in a way similar to exploration by other DNA-binding proteins. Our work also provides an example of applying tracking photoactivated localization microscopy to studies of low-copy-number proteins in living bacteria.
Project description:Many mutations that impact protein function occur at residues that do not directly contact ligand. To understand the functional contributions from the sequence that links the DNA-binding and regulatory domains of the LacI/GalR homologues, we have created a chimeric protein (LLhP), which comprises the LacI DNA-binding domain, the LacI linker, and the PurR regulatory domain. Although DNA binding site residues are identical in LLhP and LacI, thermodynamic measurements of DNA binding affinity show that LLhP does not discriminate between alternative DNA ligands as well as LacI. In addition, small-angle scattering experiments show that LLhP is more compact than LacI. When DNA is released, LacI shows a 20 A increase in length that was previously attributed to unfolding of the linker. This change is not seen in apo-LLhP, even though the linker sequences of the two proteins are identical. Together, results indicate that long-range functional and structural changes are propagated across the interface that forms between the linker and regulatory domain. These changes could be mediated via the side chains of several linker residues that contact the regulatory domains of the naturally occurring proteins, LacI and PurR. Substitution of these residues in LLhP leads to a range of functional effects. Four variants exhibit altered affinity for DNA, with no changes in selectivity or allosteric response. Another two result in proteins that bind operator DNA with very low affinity and no allosteric response, similar to LacI binding nonspecific DNA sequences. Two more substitutions simultaneously diminish affinity, enhance allostery, and profoundly alter DNA ligand selectivity. Thus, positions within the linker can be varied to modulate different aspects of repressor function.
Project description:A multiscale simulation of a complex between the lac repressor protein (LacI) and a 107-bp-long DNA segment is reported. The complex between the repressor and two operator DNA segments is described by all-atom molecular dynamics; the size of the simulated system comprises either 226,000 or 314,000 atoms. The DNA loop connecting the operators is modeled as a continuous elastic ribbon, described mathematically by the nonlinear Kirchhoff differential equations with boundary conditions obtained from the coordinates of the terminal base pairs of each operator. The forces stemming from the looped DNA are included in the molecular dynamics simulations; the loop structure and the forces are continuously recomputed because the protein motions during the simulations shift the operators and the presumed termini of the loop. The simulations reveal the structural dynamics of the LacI-DNA complex in unprecedented detail. The multiple domains of LacI exhibit remarkable structural stability during the simulation, moving much like rigid bodies. LacI is shown to absorb the strain from the looped DNA mainly through its mobile DNA-binding head groups. Even with large fluctuating forces applied, the head groups tilt strongly and keep their grip on the operator DNA, while the remainder of the protein retains its V-shaped structure. A simulated opening of the cleft of LacI by 500-pN forces revealed the interactions responsible for locking LacI in the V-conformation.