Differential chemical labeling of the AlcR DNA-binding domain from Aspergillas nidulans versus its complex with a 16-mer DNA target: identification of an essential tryptophan involved in the recognition and the interaction with the nucleic acid

Protein Sci. 2001 Jan;10(1):99-107. doi: 10.1110/ps.28201.


DNA binding of the ethanol regulon transcription factor AlcR from Aspergillus nidulans was shown to involve a consensus basic region as in the other zinc cluster proteins. However, additional interactions between some residues and DNA were suspected, among which were a hypothetic hydrophobic interaction between Trp45 and the T residue of the consensus TGCGG sequence. In the present study, the differential chemical labeling of both the free protein and the protein/DNA complex showed significantly different behaviors of the three tryptophan residues comprised in the AlcR sequence toward the Koshland reagent. The spectacular decreased reaction rate for Trp45 within the complex confirmed the location of this residue at the protein/DNA interface. A similar result obtained with Trp53, an amino acid present at the C-terminal side of AlcR, also indicated its involvement in the DNA recognition. In contrast, the formation of the complex accompanied by an allosteric rearrangement allowed the Trp36 to be much more exposed to the solvent than in the free protein. These data provide additional evidence that the unique specificity of AlcR among the zinc binuclear cluster family results in new types of interactions between AlcR and its cognate targets. From a methodological point of view, the approach of differential chemical labeling combined with mass spectrometric analyses proved to be an interesting tool for the recognition of hydrophobic interactions between the tryptophan residues of a protein and its macromolecular target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Aspergillus nidulans / chemistry*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry*
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / chemistry*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Tryptophan / metabolism


  • ALCR protein, Aspergillus nidulans
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Tryptophan