Probing the rate-limiting step for intramolecular transfer of a transcription factor between specific sites on the same DNA molecule by (15)Nz-exchange NMR spectroscopy

J Am Chem Soc. 2014 Oct 15;136(41):14369-72. doi: 10.1021/ja5081585. Epub 2014 Oct 1.


The kinetics of translocation of the homeodomain transcription factor HoxD9 between specific sites of the same or opposite polarities on the same DNA molecule have been studied by (15)Nz-exchange NMR spectroscopy. We show that exchange occurs by two facilitated diffusion mechanisms: a second-order intermolecular exchange reaction between specific sites located on different DNA molecules without the protein dissociating into free solution that predominates at high concentrations of free DNA, and a first-order intramolecular process involving direct transfer between specific sites located on the same DNA molecule. Control experiments using a mixture of two DNA molecules, each possessing only a single specific site, indicate that transfer between specific sites by full dissociation of HoxD9 into solution followed by reassociation is too slow to measure by z-exchange spectroscopy. Intramolecular transfer with comparable rate constants occurs between sites of the same and opposing polarity, indicating that both rotation-coupled sliding and hopping/flipping (analogous to geminate recombination) occur. The half-life for intramolecular transfer (0.5-1 s) is many orders of magnitude larger than the calculated transfer time (1-100 μs) by sliding, leading us to conclude that the intramolecular transfer rates measured by z-exchange spectroscopy represent the rate-limiting step for a one-base-pair shift from the specific site to the immediately adjacent nonspecific site. At zero concentration of added salt, the intramolecular transfer rate constants between sites of opposing polarity are smaller than those between sites of the same polarity, suggesting that hopping/flipping may become rate-limiting at very low salt concentrations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Homeodomain Proteins / chemistry*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / chemistry*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular


  • HOXD9 protein, human
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • DNA