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Mesoscale conformational changes in the DNA-repair complex Rad50/Mre11/Nbs1 upon binding DNA

Nature volume 437, pages 440443 (15 September 2005) | Download Citation



The human Rad50/Mre11/Nbs1 complex (hR/M/N) functions as an essential guardian of genome integrity by directing the proper processing of DNA ends, including DNA breaks1. This biological function results from its ability to tether broken DNA molecules2,3. hR/M/N's dynamic molecular architecture consists of a globular DNA-binding domain from which two 50-nm-long coiled coils protrude. The coiled coils are flexible4 and their apices can self-associate5. The flexibility of the coiled coils allows their apices to adopt an orientation favourable for interaction. However, this also allows interaction between the tips of two coiled coils within the same complex, which competes with and frustrates the intercomplex interaction required for DNA tethering. Here we show that the dynamic architecture of hR/M/N is markedly affected by DNA binding. DNA binding by the hR/M/N globular domain leads to parallel orientation of the coiled coils; this prevents intracomplex interactions and favours intercomplex associations needed for DNA tethering. The hR/M/N complex thus is an example of a biological nanomachine in which binding to its ligand, in this case DNA, affects the functional conformation of a domain located 50 nm distant.

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We thank T. Paull for the gift of the baculoviruses producing hRad50, hMre11 and hNbs1, and R. Seidel for useful discussions. F.M.-H. is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from La Fundación Ramón Areces. M.d.J. is supported by an EUR fellowship from the Erasmus MC. This project is supported in part by a grant from NWO-FOM/ALW (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) to R.K., C.W. and C.D. Work in the laboratories of R.K. and C.W. is supported by grants from the European Commission, NWO and the Dutch Cancer Society. Work in the laboratory of C.D. and N.D. acknowledges support from FOM and NWO.

Author information


  1. Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, Delft University of Technology, Lorentzweg 1, 2628 CJ Delft, The Netherlands

    • Fernando Moreno-Herrero
    • , Nynke H. Dekker
    •  & Cees Dekker
  2. Department of Cell Biology and Genetics and

    • Martijn de Jager
    • , Roland Kanaar
    •  & Claire Wyman
  3. Department of Radiation Oncology, Erasmus MC, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands

    • Roland Kanaar
    •  & Claire Wyman


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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Claire Wyman or Cees Dekker.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Figure S1

    The hR/M complexes move along the DNA while following the contour of the DNA molecule.

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    Supplementary Movies Legends

    Text descriptions to accompany the below Supplementary Movies.


  1. 1.

    Supplementary Movie S1

    Atomic force microscopy movie of a free hR/M complex imaged in buffer.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Movie S2

    Dynamic transition between the architecture of DNA-bound hR/M and DNA-free hR/M.

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