Authors: Sánchez-Romero MA, Busby SJ, Dyer NP, Ott S, Millard AD, Grainger DC.
The Escherichia coli curved DNA-binding protein A (CbpA) is a nucleoid-associated DNA-binding factor and chaperone that is expressed at high levels as cells enter stationary phase. Using a combination of genetics, biochemistry, structural modelling and single-molecule atomic force microscopy we have examined dimerization of, and DNA binding by, CbpA. Our data show that CbpA dimerization is driven by a hydrophobic surface comprising amino acid side chains W287 and L290 located on the same side of an ? helix close to the C-terminus of CbpA. Derivatives of CbpA that are unable to dimerize are also unable to bind DNA. Free in solution, CbpA can exist as either a monomer or dimer. However, when bound to DNA, CbpA forms large aggregates that can protect DNA from degradation by nucleases. These CbpA-DNA aggregates are similar in morphology to protein-DNA complexes formed by the DNA-binding protein from starved cells (Dps), the only other stationary phase-specific nucleoid protein. Conversely, protein-DNA complexes formed by Fis, the major growth phase nucleoid protein, have a markedly different appearance.