Theses Doctoral

Winning the cellular lottery: how proteins reach and recognize targets in DNA

Redding, Sy Eugene

Many aspects of biology depend on the ability of DNA-binding proteins to locate specific binding sites within the genome. This search process is required at the beginning of all site-specific protein-DNA interactions, and has the potential to act as the first stage of biological regulation. Given the difficulty of pinpointing a small region of DNA, within even simple genomes, it is expected that proteins are adapted to use specialized mechanisms, collectively referred to as facilitated diffusion [Berg et al., 1981], to effectively reduce the dimensionality of their searches, and rapidly find their targets. Here, we use a combination of nanofabricated microfluidic devices and single-molecule microscopy to determine whether facilitated diffusion contributes to all DNA target searches. We investigate promoter binding by E. coli RNA polymerase, foreign DNA recognition by CRISPR-Cas complexes, and Rad51’s homology search during recombination. In each example, we observe that the target searches proceed without extensive use of facilitated diffusion; rather, consideration of these non-facilitated target searches reveals an alternative search strategy. We show that instead of reducing the dimensionality of their searches, these proteins, reduce search complexity by minimizing unproductive interactions with DNA, thereby increase the probability of locating a specific DNA target.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Chemical Physics
Thesis Advisors
Greene, Eric C.
Reichman, David R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 13, 2015