Probing the structure of complex macromolecular interactions by homolog specificity scanning: the P1 and P7 plasmid partition systems

EMBO J. 1998 Oct 15;17(20):6076-85. doi: 10.1093/emboj/17.20.6076.


The P1 plasmid partition locus, P1 par, actively distributes plasmid copies to Escherichia coli daughter cells. It encodes two DNA sites and two proteins, ParA and ParB. Plasmid P7 uses a similar system, but the key macromolecular interactions are species specific. Homolog specificity scanning (HSS) exploits such specificities to map critical contact points between component macromolecules. The ParA protein contacts the par operon operator for operon autoregulation, and the ParB contacts the parS partition site during partition. Here, we refine the mapping of these contacts and extend the use of HSS to map protein-protein contacts. We found that ParB participates in autoregulation at the operator site by making a specific contact with ParA. Similarly, ParA acts in partition by making a specific contact with ParB bound at parS. Both these interactions involve contacts between a C-terminal region of ParA and the extreme N-terminus of ParB. As a single type of ParA-ParB complex appears to be involved in recognizing both DNA sites, the operator and the parS sites may both be occupied by a single protein complex during partition. The general HSS strategy may aid in solving the three-dimensional structures of large complexes of macromolecules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / physiology
  • Bacteriophage P1 / genetics*
  • Coliphages / genetics
  • Dimerization
  • Escherichia coli
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Operon / physiology
  • Peptide Mapping
  • Physical Chromosome Mapping
  • Plasmids / chemistry*
  • Plasmids / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / physiology
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid*
  • Species Specificity


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Repressor Proteins
  • chromosome partition proteins, bacterial