Assembly of Synaptic Protein–DNA Complexes: Critical Role of Non-Specific Interactions

Sridhar Vemulapalli, Mohtadin Hashemi, Anatoly B. Kolomeisky, Yuri L. Lyubchenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The synaptic protein–DNA complexes, formed by specialized proteins that bridge two or more distant sites on DNA, are critically involved in various genetic processes. However, the molecular mechanism by which the protein searches for these sites and how it brings them together is not well understood. Our previous studies directly visualized search pathways used by SfiI, and we identified two pathways, DNA threading and site-bound transfer pathways, specific to the site-search process for synaptic DNA–protein systems. To investigate the molecular mechanism behind these site-search pathways, we assembled complexes of SfiI with various DNA substrates corresponding to different transient states and measured their stability using a single-molecule fluorescence approach. These assemblies corresponded to specific–specific (synaptic), non-specific–non-specific (non-specific), and specific–non-specific (pre-synaptic) SfiI–DNA states. Unexpectedly, an elevated stability in pre-synaptic complexes assembled with specific and non-specific DNA substrates was found. To explain these surprising observations, a theoretical approach that describes the assembly of these complexes and compares the predictions with the experiment was developed. The theory explains this effect by utilizing entropic arguments, according to which, after the partial dissociation, the non-specific DNA template has multiple possibilities of rebinding, effectively increasing the stability. Such difference in the stabilities of SfiI complexes with specific and non-specific DNA explains the utilization of threading and site-bound transfer pathways in the search process of synaptic protein–DNA complexes discovered in the time-lapse AFM experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9800
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • entropic effect
  • pre-synaptic
  • single-molecule-TIRF
  • site-bound transfer
  • site-search
  • synaptic protein–DNA complex
  • threading
  • transient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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