Correlations between scaffold/matrix attachment region (S/MAR) binding activity and DNA duplex destabilization energy

J Mol Biol. 2006 Apr 28;358(2):597-613. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.11.073. Epub 2005 Dec 9.


Scaffold or matrix-attachment regions (S/MARs) are thought to be involved in the organization of eukaryotic chromosomes and in the regulation of several DNA functions. Their characteristics are conserved between plants and humans, and a variety of biological activities have been associated with them. The identification of S/MARs within genomic sequences has proved to be unexpectedly difficult, as they do not appear to have consensus sequences or sequence motifs associated with them. We have shown that S/MARs do share a characteristic structural property, they have a markedly high predicted propensity to undergo strand separation when placed under negative superhelical tension. This result agrees with experimental observations, that S/MARs contain base-unpairing regions (BURs). Here, we perform a quantitative evaluation of the association between the ease of stress-induced DNA duplex destabilization (SIDD) and S/MAR binding activity. We first use synthetic oligomers to investigate how the arrangement of localized unpairing elements within a base-unpairing region affects S/MAR binding. The organizational properties found in this way are applied to the investigation of correlations between specific measures of stress-induced duplex destabilization and the binding properties of naturally occurring S/MARs. For this purpose, we analyze S/MAR and non-S/MAR elements that have been derived from the human genome or from the tobacco genome. We find that S/MARs exhibit long regions of extensive destabilization. Moreover, quantitative measures of the SIDD attributes of these fragments calculated under uniform conditions are found to correlate very highly (r2>0.8) with their experimentally measured S/MAR-binding strengths. These results suggest that duplex destabilization may be involved in the mechanisms by which S/MARs function. They suggest also that SIDD properties may be incorporated into an improved computational strategy to search genomic DNA sequences for sites having the necessary attributes to function as S/MARs, and even to estimate their relative binding strengths.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Dimerization
  • Genome, Human
  • Genome, Plant
  • Humans
  • Interferon-beta / chemistry
  • Interferon-beta / metabolism
  • Matrix Attachment Regions*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleic Acid Heteroduplexes / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Chromatin
  • Nucleic Acid Heteroduplexes
  • Interferon-beta
  • DNA