Multiple modes of Escherichia coli DNA gyrase activity revealed by force and torque

Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2007 Apr;14(4):264-71. doi: 10.1038/nsmb1213. Epub 2007 Mar 4.


E. coli DNA gyrase uses the energy of ATP hydrolysis to introduce essential negative supercoils into the genome, thereby working against the mechanical stresses that accumulate in supercoiled DNA. Using a magnetic-tweezers assay, we demonstrate that small changes in force and torque can switch gyrase among three distinct modes of activity. Under low mechanical stress, gyrase introduces negative supercoils by a mechanism that depends on DNA wrapping. Elevated tension or positive torque suppresses DNA wrapping, revealing a second mode of activity that resembles the activity of topoisomerase IV. This 'distal T-segment capture' mode results in active relaxation of left-handed braids and positive supercoils. A third mode is responsible for the ATP-independent relaxation of negative supercoils. We present a branched kinetic model that quantitatively accounts for all of our single-molecule results and agrees with existing biochemical data.

Publication types

  • 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

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / pharmacology
  • DNA Gyrase / metabolism*
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Superhelical / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Magnetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation / drug effects
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Torque*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Superhelical
  • Protein Subunits
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • DNA Gyrase