The lac repressor protein (LacI) efficiently represses transcription of the lac operon in Escherichia coli by binding to two distant operator sites on the bacterial DNA and causing the intervening DNA to form a loop. We employed single-molecule tethered particle motion to observe LacI-mediated loop formation and breakdown in DNA constructs that incorporate optimized operator binding sites and intrinsic curvature favorable to loop formation. Previous bulk competition assays indirectly measured the loop lifetimes in these optimized DNA constructs as being on the order of days; however, we measured these same lifetimes to be on the order of minutes for both looped and unlooped states. In a range of single-molecule DNA competition experiments, we found that the resistance of the LacI-DNA complex to competitive binding is a function of both the operator strength and the interoperator sequence. To explain these findings, we present what we believe to be a new kinetic model of loop formation and DNA competition. In this proposed new model, we hypothesize a new unlooped state in which the unbound DNA-binding domain of the LacI protein interacts nonspecifically with nonoperator DNA adjacent to the operator site at which the second LacI DNA-binding domain is bound. © 2014 Biophysical Society.
Revalee, J. D., Blab, G. A., Wilson, H. D., Kahn, J. D., & Meiners, J. C. (2014). Tethered particle motion reveals that LacI·DNA loops coexist with a competitor-resistant but apparently unlooped conformation. Biophysical Journal, 106(3), 705–715. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2013.12.024