Editor's Summary

29 October 2009

Major to minor


How sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins can find targets in the midst of vast amounts of non-specific DNA is a long-standing puzzle. A favoured model was that the sequence was read as hydrogen bonds formed between the protein and bases in the major groove of the DNA helix. A new analysis of the three-dimensional structures of protein–DNA complexes suggests that DNA shape is key to recognition. DNA sequence context alters the width of the minor groove of the helix by preferential binding of arginines to electronegative pockets. The positioning of DNA in the nucleosome core particle is an example of this effect.

News and ViewsStructural biology: DNA binding shapes up

DNA-binding proteins have the daunting task of finding their binding sites among the 3 billion base pairs of the human genome. The shape of DNA, and not just its sequence, may offer proteins much-needed direction.

Tom Tullius

doi:10.1038/4611225a

ArticleThe role of DNA shape in protein–DNA recognition

Remo Rohs, Sean M. West, Alona Sosinsky, Peng Liu, Richard S. Mann & Barry Honig

doi:10.1038/nature08473