2014 Reich Lab Publication in Biochemistry

The passive search by proteins for particular DNA sequences involving nonspecific DNA is essential for gene regulation, DNA repair, phage defense, and diverse epigenetic processes. Distinct mechanisms contribute to these searches, and it remains unresolved as to which mechanism or blend of mechanisms best suits a particular protein and, more importantly, its biological role. To address this, we compare the translocation properties of two well-studied bacterial restriction endonucleases (ENases), EcoRI and EcoRV. These dimeric, magnesium-dependent enzymes hydrolyze related sites (EcoRI ENase, 5'-GAATTC-3'; EcoRV ENase, 5'-GATATC-3'), leaving overhangs and blunt DNA segments, respectively. Here, we demonstrate that the extensive sliding by EcoRI ENase, involving sliding up to ∼600 bp prior to dissociating from the DNA, contrasts with a larger reliance on hopping mechanism(s) by EcoRV ENase. The mechanism displayed by EcoRI ENase results in a highly thorough search of DNA, whereas the EcoRV ENase mechanism results in an extended, yet less rigorous, interrogation of DNA sequence space. We describe how these mechanistic distinctions are complemented by other aspects of these endonucleases, such as the 10-fold higher in vivo concentrations of EcoRI ENase compared to that of EcoRV ENase. Further, we hypothesize that the highly diverse enzyme arsenal that bacteria employ against foreign DNA involves seemingly similar enzymes that rely on distinct but complementary search mechanisms. Our comparative approach reveals how different proteins utilize distinct site-locating strategies.