Chemical conversion of a DNA-binding protein into a site-specific nuclease

Science  04 Sep 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4819, pp. 1197-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.2820056


The tryptophan gene (trp) repressor of Escherichia coli has been converted into a site-specific nuclease by covalently attaching it to the 1,10-phenanthroline-copper complex. In its cuprous form, the coordination complex with hydrogen peroxide as a coreactant cleaves DNA by oxidatively attacking the deoxyribose moiety. The chemistry for the attachment of 1,10-phenanthroline to the trp repressor involves modification of lysyl residues with iminothiolane followed by alkylation of the resulting sulfhydryl groups with 5-iodoacetamido-1,10-phenanthroline. The modified trp repressor cleaves the operators of aroH and trpEDCBA upon the addition of cupric ion and thiol in a reaction dependent on the corepressor L-tryptophan. Scission was restricted to the binding site for the repressor, defined by deoxyribonuclease I footprinting. Since DNA-binding proteins have recognition sequences approximately 20 base pairs long, the nucleolytic activities derived from them could be used to isolate long DNA fragments for sequencing or chromosomal mapping.