The conformation of an eight base pair DNA oligonucleotide duplex bound to the human testis determining factor SRY and the orientation of the protein domain within the complex have been analyzed by a variety of NMR methods which permit the selective observation of protons attached to C-12 nuclei in the presence of uniformly enriched C-13/N-15 protein. Qualitative analysis of nuclear and rotating frame Overhauser enhancement spectra at multiple mixing times indicates that the conformation of the SRY-bound DNA is distinct from that of A- and B-DNA, in agreement with the recent three-dimensional structure determination of the complex [Werner, M. W., Huth, J. R., Gronenborn, A. M., & Clore, G. M. (1995) Cell 81, 705-714]. Selective observation of intermolecular NOEs between protein and DNA indicates that partial intercalation of a protein side chain occurs between two adenine bases in the DNA. octamer. The analysis of structural features by NMR for this unusual DNA conformer and the orientation of the protein domain on the DNA is discussed. The structural features of the DNA complexed to SRY are remarkably similar, but not identical, to those of DNA complexed to the TATA-binding protein (TBP).
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