On the connection between inherent DNA flexure and preferred binding of hydroxymethyluracil-containing DNA by the type II DNA-binding protein TF1
TF1 is a member of the family of type II DNA-binding proteins, which also includes the bacterial HU proteins and the Escherichia coli integration host factor (IHF). Distinctive to TF1, which is encoded by the Bacillus subtilis bacteriophage SPO1, is its preferential binding to DNA in which thymine is replaced by 5-hydroxymethyluracil (hmU), as it is in the phage genome. TF1 binds to preferred sites within the phage genome and generates pronounced DNA bending. The extent to which DNA flexibility contributes to the sequence-specific binding of TF1, and the connection between hmU preference and DNA flexibility has been examined. Model flexible sites, consisting of consecutive mismatches, increase the affinity of thymine-containing DNA for TF1. In particular, tandem mismatches separated by nine base-pairs generate an increase, by orders of magnitude, in the affinity of TF1 for T-containing DNA with the sequence of a preferred TF1 binding site, and fully match the affinity of TF1 for this cognate site in hmU-containing DNA (K(d) ~ 3 nM). Other placements of loops generate suboptimal binding. This is consistent with a significant contribution of site-specific DNA flexibility to complex formation. Analysis of complexes with hmU-DNA of decreasing length shows that a major part of the binding affinity is generated within a central 19 bp segment (ΔG° = 41.7 kJ mol-1) with more-distal DNA contributing modestly to the affinity (ΔΔG = -0.42 kJ mol-1 bp-1 on increasing duplex length to 37 bp). However, a previously characterised thermostable and more tightly binding mutant TF1, TF1(E15G/T32I), derives most of its extra affinity from interaction with flanking DNA. We propose that inherent but sequence-dependent deformability of hmU-containing DNA underlies the preferential binding of TF1 and that TF1-induced DNA bendings is a result of distortions at two distinct sites separated by 9 bp of duplex DNA.