APOBEC3G (A3G) protein has antiviral activity against HIV and other pathogenic retroviruses. A3G has two domains: a catalytic C-terminal domain (CTD) that deaminates cytidine, and a N-terminal domain (NTD) that binds to ssDNA. Although abundant information exists about the biological activities of A3G protein, the interplay between sequence specific deaminase activity and A3G binding to ssDNA remains controversial. We used the topographic imaging and force spectroscopy modalities of Atomic Force Spectroscopy (AFM) to characterize the interaction of A3G protein with deaminase specific and nonspecific ssDNA substrates. AFM imaging demonstrated that A3G has elevated affinity for deaminase specific ssDNA than for nonspecific ssDNA. AFM force spectroscopy revealed two distinct binding modes by which A3G interacts with ssDNA. One mode requires sequence specificity, as demonstrated by stronger and more stable complexes with deaminase specific ssDNA than with nonspecific ssDNA. Overall these observations enforce prior studies suggesting that both domains of A3G contribute to the sequence specific binding of ssDNA.
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