Probing Macromolecular Reactions At Reduced Dimensionality : Mapping Of Sequence Specific And Non-Specific Protein-Ligand lnteractions
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During the past decade the effects of macromolecular crowding on reaction pathways is gaining in prominence. The stress is to move out of the realms of ideal solution studies and make conceptual modifications that consider non-ideality as a variable in our calculations. In recent years it has been shown that molecular crowding exerts significant effects on all in vivo processes, from DNA conformational changes, protein folding to DNA-protein interactions, enzyme pathways and signalling pathways. Both thermodynamic as well as kinetic parameters vary by orders of magnitude in uncrowded buffer system as compared to those in the crowded cellular milieu. Ignoring these differences will restrict our knowledge of biology to a “model system” with few practical understandings. The recent expansion of the genome database has stimulated a study on numerous previously unknown proteins. This has whetted our thirst to model the cellular determinants in a more comprehensive manner. Intracellular extract would have been the ideal solution to re-create the cellular environment. However, studies conducted in this solution will be contaminated by interference with other biologically active molecule and relevant statistical data cannot be extracted out from it. Recent advances in methodologies to mimic the cellular crowding include use of inert macromolecules to reduce the volume occupancy of target molecules and the use of immobilization techniques to increase the surface density of molecules in a small volumetric region. The use of crowding agents often results in non-specific interaction and side-reactions like aggregation of the target molecules with the crowding agents themselves. Immobilization of one of the interacting partners reduces the probability of aggregation and precipitation of bio-macromolecules by restricting their degrees of freedom. Covalent linkage of molecules on solid support is used extensively in research for creating a homogeneous surface of bound molecules which can be interrogated for their reactivity. However, when it comes to biomolecules, direct immobilization on solid support or use of organic linkers often results in denaturation. The use of bio-affinity immobilization techniques can help us overcome this problem. Since mild conditions are needed to regenerate such a surface, it finds universal applicability as bio-memory chips. This thesis focuses on our attempts to design a physiologically viable immobilization technique for following rotein-protein/protein-DNA interactions. The work explores the mechanism for biological interactions related to transcription process in E. coli. Chapter 1 deals with the literary survey of the importance and effects of molecular crowding on biological reactions. It gives a brief history of the efforts been made so far by experimentalists, to mimic macromolecular crowding and the methods applied. The chapter tries to project an all-round perspective of the pros and cons of different immobilization techniques as a means to achieve a high surface density of molecules and the advancements so far. Chapter 2 deals with the detailed technicality and applicability of the Langmuir-Blodgett method. It discusses the rationale behind our developing this technique as an alternate means of bio-affinity immobilization, under physiologically compatible conditions. It then goes on to describe our efforts to follow the sequence-specific and sequential assembly process of a functional RNA polymerase enzyme with one immobilized partner and also explore the role of omega subunit of RNAP in the reconstitution pathway. This chapter uses the assembly process of a multi-subunit enzyme to evaluate the efficiency of the LB system as a universal two-dimensional scaffold to follow sequence-specific protein-ligand interaction. Chapter 3 discusses the application of LB technique to quantitatively evaluate the kinetics and thermodynamics of promoter-RNA polymerase interaction under conditions of reduced dimensionality. Here, we follow the interaction of T7A1 phage promoter with Escherichia coli RNA polymerase using our Langmuir-Blodgett technique. The changes in mechanistic pathway and trapping of kinetic intermediates are discussed in detail due to the imposed restriction in the degrees of freedom of the system. The sensitivity of this detection method is compared vis-a-vis conventional immobilization methods like SPR. This chapter firmly establishes the universal application of LB technique as a means to emulate molecular crowding and as a sensitive assay for studying the effects of such crowding on vital biological reaction pathway. Chapter 4 describes the mechanistic pathway for the physical binding of MsDps1 protein with long dsDNA in order to physically protect DNA during oxidative stress. The chapter describes in detail the mechanism of physical sequestering of non-specific DNA strands and compaction of the genome under conditions where a kinetic bottleneck has been applied. The data obtained is compared with results obtained in the previous chapter for the sequence-specific DNA-protein interaction in order to understand the difference in recognition process between regulatory and structural proteins binding to DNA. Chapter 5 deals with the evaluation of the σ-competition model in E. coli for three different sigma factors (all belonging to the σ-70 family). Here again, we have evaluated the kinetic and thermodynamic parameters governing the binding of core RNAP with its different sigma factors (σ70, σ32and σ38) and performed a comparative study for the binding of each sigma factor to its core using two different non-homogeneous immobilization techniques. The data has been analyzed globally to resolve the discrepancies associated with establishing the relative affinity of the different sigma factors for the same core RNA polymerase under physiological conditions. Chapter 6 summarizes the work presented in this thesis. In the Appendix section we have followed the unzipping of promoter DNA sequence using Optical Tweezers in an attempt to follow the temporal fluctuations occurring in biological reactions in real time and at a single molecule level.
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