The structure of 4-way DNA junctions: specific binding of bis-intercalators with rigid linkers.
Carpenter ML., Lowe G., Cook PR.
During replication and recombination, two DNA duplexes lie side by side. We have developed reagents that might be used to probe structure during these critical processes; they contain two intercalating groups connected by a rigid linker that forces those groups to point in opposite directions. If their stereochemistry proves appropriate, such structure-specific agents should intercalate specifically into adjacent duplexes in the Y- and X-shaped structures (i.e. 3- and 4-way junctions, now known as 3H and 4H junctions) found at replication and recombination sites. We prepared DNA structures in which four duplexes were arranged in all possible combinations around 2- and 4-way junctions and then probed the accessibility to DNase I of all their phosphodiester bonds. In the absence of any bis-intercalators, 7-9 nucleotides (nt) in each of the strands in 4-way junctions were protected from attack; protected regions were significantly offset to the 3' side of the junction in continuous strands, but only slightly offset, if at all, in exchanging strands. All the intercalators decreased accessibility throughout the structure, but none did so at specific points in the two adjacent arms of 4-way junctions. However, one bis-intercalator--but not its sister with a shorter linker--strikingly increased access to a particular CpT bond that lay 9 nt away from the centre of some 4-way junctions without reducing access to neighbouring bonds. Binding was both sequence and structure specific, and depended on complementary stereochemistry between bis-intercalator and junction.