Mechanism of promoter repression by Lac repressor–DNA loops

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, 200 First Street Southwest, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
Nucleic Acids Research (Impact Factor: 8.81). 01/2013; 41(1):156–166. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gks1011

ABSTRACT The Escherichia coli lactose (lac) operon encodes the first genetic switch to be discovered, and lac remains a paradigm for studying negative and positive control of gene expression. Negative control is believed to involve competition of RNA polymerase and Lac repressor for overlapping binding sites. Contributions to the local Lac repres-sor concentration come from free repressor and re-pressor delivered to the operator from remote auxiliary operators by DNA looping. Long-standing questions persist concerning the actual role of DNA looping in the mechanism of promoter repression. Here, we use experiments in living bacteria to resolve four of these questions. We show that the distance dependence of repression enhancement is comparable for upstream and downstream auxiliary operators, confirming the hypothesis that repressor concentration increase is the principal mechanism of repression loops. We find that as few as four turns of DNA can be constrained in a stable loop by Lac repressor. We show that RNA polymerase is not trapped at repressed promoters. Finally, we show that constraining a promoter in a tight DNA loop is sufficient for repression even when promoter and operator do not overlap.

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    ABSTRACT: Tethered particle motion (TPM) experiments can be used to detect time-resolved loop formation in a single DNA molecule by measuring changes in the length of a DNA tether. Interpretation of such experiments is greatly aided by computer simulations of DNA looping which allow one to analyze the structure of the looped DNA and estimate DNA-protein binding constants specific for the loop formation process. We here present a new Monte Carlo scheme for accurate simulation of DNA configurations subject to geometric constraints and apply this method to Lac repressor mediated DNA looping, comparing the simulation results with new experimental data obtained by the TPM technique. Our simulations, taking into account the details of attachment of DNA ends and fluctuations of the looped subsegment of the DNA, reveal the origin of the double-peaked distribution of RMS values observed by TPM experiments by showing that the average RMS value for anti-parallel loop types is smaller than that of parallel loop types. The simulations also reveal that the looping probabilities for the anti-parallel loop types are significantly higher than those of the parallel loop types, even for loops of length 600 and 900 base pairs, and that the correct proportion between the heights of the peaks in the distribution can only be attained when loops with flexible Lac repressor conformation are taken into account. Comparison of the in silico and in vitro results yields estimates for the dissociation constants characterizing the binding affinity between O1 and Oid DNA operators and the dimeric arms of the Lac repressor.
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Jun 5, 2014