Measurement of lactose repressor-mediated loop formation and breakdown in single DNA molecules

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Science  20 Jan 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5196, pp. 378-380
DOI: 10.1126/science.7824935


In gene regulatory systems in which proteins bind to multiple sites on a DNA molecule, the characterization of chemical mechanisms and single-step reaction rates is difficult because many chemical species may exist simultaneously in a molecular ensemble. This problem was circumvented by detecting DNA looping by the lactose repressor protein of Escherichia coli in single DNA molecules. The looping was detected by monitoring the nanometer-scale Brownian motion of microscopic particles linked to the ends of individual DNA molecules. This allowed the determination of the rates of formation and breakdown of a protein-mediated DNA loop in vitro. The measurements reveal that mechanical strain stored in the loop does not substantially accelerate loop breakdown, and the measurements also show that subunit dissociation of tetrameric repressor is not the predominant loop breakdown pathway.