Mycobacterium smegmatis Ku binds DNA without free ends

Ambuj K. Kushwaha, Louisiana State University
Anne Grove, Louisiana State University


Ku is central to the non-homologous end-joining pathway of double-strand-break repair in all three major domains of life, with eukaryotic homologues being associated with more diversified roles compared with prokaryotic and archaeal homologues. Ku has a conserved central 'ring-shaped' core domain. While prokaryotic homologues lack the N- and C-terminal domains that impart functional diversity to eukaryotic Ku, analyses of Ku from certain prokaryotes such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Mycobacterium smegmatis have revealed the presence of distinct C-terminal extensions that modulate DNA-binding properties. We report in the present paper that the lysine-rich C-terminal extension of M. smegmatis Ku contacts the core protein domain as evidenced by an increase in DNA-binding affinity and a decrease in thermal stability and intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence upon its deletion. Ku deleted for this C-terminus requires free DNA ends for binding, but translocates to internal DNA sites. In contrast, full-length Ku can directly bind DNA without free ends, suggesting that this property is conferred by its C-terminus. Such binding to internal DNA sites may facilitate recruitment to sites of DNA damage. The results of the present study also suggest that extensions beyond the shared core domain may have independently evolved to expand Ku function. © The Authors Journal compilation © 2013 Biochemical Society.