The role of flexibility and hydration on the sequence-specific DNA recognition by the Tn916 integrase protein: a molecular dynamics analysis

J Mol Recognit. 2004 Mar-Apr;17(2):120-31. doi: 10.1002/jmr.658.


The N-terminal domain of the Tn916 integrase protein (INT-DBD) is responsible for DNA binding in the process of strand cleavage and joining reactions required for transposition of the Tn916 conjugative transposon. Site-specific association is facilitated by numerous protein-DNA contacts from the face of a three-stranded beta-sheet inserted into the major groove. The protein undergoes a subtle conformational transition and is slightly unfolded in the protein-DNA complex. The conformation of many charged residues is poorly defined by NMR data but mutational studies have indicated that removal of polar side chains decreases binding affinity, while non-polar contacts are malleable. Based on analysis of the binding enthalpy and binding heat capacity, we have reasoned that dehydration of the protein-DNA interface is incomplete. This study presents results from a molecular dynamics investigation of the INT-DBD-DNA complex aimed at a more detailed understanding of the role of conformational dynamics and hydration in site-specific binding. Comparison of simulations (total of 13 ns) of the free protein and of the bound protein conformation (in isolation or DNA-bound) reveals intrinsic flexibility in certain parts of the molecule. Conformational adaptation linked to partial unfolding appears to be induced by protein-DNA contacts. The protein-DNA hydrogen-bonding network is highly dynamic. The simulation identifies protein-DNA interactions that are poorly resolved or only surmised from the NMR ensemble. Single water molecules and water clusters dynamically optimize the complementarity of polar interactions at the 'wet' protein-DNA interface. The simulation results are useful to establish a qualitative link between experimental data on individual residue's contribution to binding affinity and thermodynamic properties of INT-DBD alone and in complex with DNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Integrases / chemistry*
  • Integrases / genetics
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Pliability
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Folding
  • Thermodynamics
  • Water / chemistry


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Water
  • Integrases