Small-angle X-ray scattering has been used to study the structure of the multimeric complexes that form between double-stranded DNA and the archheal chromatin protein Sac7d from Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. Scattering data from complexes of Sac7d with a defined 32-mer oligonucleotide, with poly[d(GC)], and with E. coli DNA indicate that the protein binds along the surface of an extended DNA structure. Molecular models of fully saturated Sac7d/DNA complexes were constructed using constraints from crystal structure and solution binding data. Conformational space was searched systematically by varying the parameters of the models within the constrained set to find the best fits between the X-ray scattering data and simulated scattering curves. The best fits were obtained for models composed of repeating segments of B- DNA with sharp kinks at contiguous protein binding sites. The results are consistent with extrapolation of the X-ray crystal structure of a 1:1 Sac7d/octanucleotide complex [Robinson, H., et al. (1998) Nature 392, 202- 205] to polymeric DNA. The DNA conformation in our multimeric Sac7d/DNA model has the base pairs tilted by about 35°and displaced 3 Å from the helix axis. There is a large roll between two base pairs at the protein-induced kink site, resulting in an overall bending angle of about 70°for Sac7d binding. Regularly repeating bends in the fully saturated complex result in a zigzag structure with negligible compaction of DNA. The Sac7d molecules in the model form a unique structure with two left-handed helical ribbons winding around the outside of the right-handed duplex DNA.
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