The ability of a helicase to bind single-stranded nucleic acid is critical for nucleic acid unwinding. The helicase from the hepatitis C virus, NS3 protein, binds to the 3′-DNA or the RNA strand during unwinding. As a step to understand the mechanism of unwinding, DNA binding properties of the helicase domain of NS3 (NS3h) were investigated by fluorimetric binding equilibrium titrations. The global analysis of the binding data by a combinatorial approach was done using MATLAB. NS3h interactions with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) are 300-1000-fold tighter relative to duplex DNA. The NS3h protein binds to ssDNA less than 15 nt in length with a stoichiometry of one protein per DNA. The minimal ssDNA binding site of NS3h helicase was determined to be 8 nucleotides with the microscopic Kd of 2-4 nM or an observed free energy of -50 kJ/mol. These NS3h-DNA interactions are highly sensitive to salt, and the Kd increases 4 times when the NaCl concentration is doubled. Multiple HCV helicase proteins bind to ssDNA >15 nucleotides in length, with an apparent occluded site of 8-11 nucleotides. The DNA binding data indicate that the interactions of multiple NS3h protein molecules with long ssDNA are both noncooperative and sequence-independent. We discuss the DNA binding properties of HCV helicase in relation to other superfamily 1 and 2 helicases. These studies provide the basis to investigate the DNA binding interactions with the unwinding substrate and their modulation by the ATPase activity of HCV helicase.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology