Kinetics and mechanism in the reaction of gene regulatory proteins with DNA

Michael G. Fried, Donald M. Crothers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


We have measured the kinetic properties of the Escherichia coli cAMP receptor protein (CAP) and lac repressor interacting with lac promoter restriction fragments. Under our reaction conditions (10 mM-Tris·HCl (pH 8·0 at 21°C), 1 mm-EDTA, 10 μM-cAMP, 50μg bovine serum albumin/ml, 5% glycerol), the association of CAP is at least a two-step process, with an initial, unstable complex formed with rate constant ka=5(±2·5)×107 M-1 s-1. Subsequent formation of a stable complex occurs with an apparent bimolecular rate constant ka=6·7×106 M-1 s-1. At low total DNA concentration, the dissociation rate constant for the specific CAP-DNA complex is 1·2×10-4 s-1. The ratio of formation and dissociation rate constants yields an estimate of the equilibrium constant, Keq=5×1010 M-1, in good agreement with static results. We observed that the dissociation rate constant of both CAP-DNA and repressor-DNA complexes is increased by adding non-specific "catalytic" DNA to the reaction mixture. CAP dissociation by the concentration-dependent pathway is second-order in added non-specific DNA, consistent with either the simultaneous or the sequential participation of two DNA molecules in the reaction mechanism. The results imply a role for distal DNA in assembly-disassembly of specifc CAP-DNA complexes, and are consistent with a model in which the subunits in the CAP dimer separate in the assembly-disassembly process. The dissociation of lac repressor-operator complexes was found to be DNA concentration-dependent as well, although in contrast to CAP, the reaction is first-order in catalytic DNA. Added excess operator-rich DNA gave more rapid dissociation than equivalent concentrations of non-specific DNA, indicating that the sequence content of the competing DNA influences the rate of repressor dissociation. The simplest interpretation of these observations is that lac repressor can be transferred directly from one DNA molecule to another. A comparison of the translocation rates calculated for direct transfer with those predicted by the one-dimensional sliding model indicates that direct transfer may play a role in the binding site search of lac repressor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-282
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 25 1984

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant GM 21966 from the National Institutes of Health. We thank Peter yon Hippel for helpful comments on the manuscript.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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