Developing novel single molecule analyses of the single-stranded DNA binding protein from Sulfolobus solfataricus
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Single-stranded DNA binding proteins (SSB) bind to single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) that is generated by molecular machines such as helicases and polymerases. SSBs play crucial roles in DNA translation, replication and repair and their importance is demonstrated by their inclusion across all domains of life. The homotetrameric E. coli SSB and the heterotrimeric human RPA demonstrate how SSBs can vary structurally, but all fulfil their roles by employing oligonucleotide/oligosaccharide binding (OB) folds. Nucleofilaments of SSB proteins bound to ssDNA sequester the ssDNA strands, and in doing so protect exposed bases, keep the ssDNA in conformations favoured by other proteins that metabolise DNA and also recruit other proteins to bind to ssDNA. This thesis focuses on the SSB from the archaeon S. solfataricus (SsoSSB), and has found SsoSSB to be a monomer that binds cooperatively to ssDNA with a binding site size of 4-5 nucleotides. Tagging ssDNA and SsoSSB with fluorescent labels allowed the real time observation of single molecule interactions during the initial nucleation event and subsequent binding of an adjacent SsoSSB monomer. This was achieved by interpreting fluorescent traces that have recorded combinations of FRET, protein induced fluorescent enhancement (PIFE) and quenching events. This novel analysis gave precise measurements of the dynamics of the first and second monomers binding to ssDNA, which allowed affinity and cooperativity constants to be quantified for this important molecular process. SsoSSB was also found to have a similar affinity for RNA, demonstrating a promiscuity not found in other SSBs and suggesting further roles for SsoSSB in the cell - possibly exploiting its capacity to protect nucleic acids from degradation. The extreme temperatures that S. solfataricus experiences and the strength of the interaction with ssDNA and RNA make exploring the application of SsoSSB for industrial uses an interesting prospect; and its rare monomeric structure provides an opportunity to investigate the action of OB folds in a more isolated environment than in higher order structures.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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