DNA bending by a phantom protein

Juliane K. Strauss, Thazha P. Prakash, Christopher Roberts, Christopher Switzer, L. James Maher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: Despite its stiffness, duplex DNA is extensively bent and folded during packaging and gene expression in biological systems. Modulation of the electrostatic repulsion between phosphates in the DNA backbone may be important in the bending of DNA by proteins. Here, we analyze the shape of DNA molecules that have been modified chemically to mimic the electrostatic consequences of a bound protein. Results: We have simulated salt bridges between DNA phosphates and cationic amino acid sidechains of a phantom protein by tethering ammonium cations to one face of the DNA helix. Tethered ammonium cations, but not neutral acetylated controls, induce DNA to bend toward its neutralized surface. Conclusions: The shape of DNA molecules bearing a laterally-asymmetric distribution of tethered cations agrees qualitatively with theoretical predictions and with results previously obtained using neutral phosphate analogs. These data suggest principles that might be applied to the design of artificial DNA-bending proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-678
Number of pages8
JournalChemistry and Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1996


  • DNA bending
  • electrostatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'DNA bending by a phantom protein'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this