Despite its central role in the nonhomologous DNA end joining process, we still have an incomplete picture of the interaction between Ku and DNA. Here we describe both kinetic (surface plasmon resonance or SPR) and equilibrium (electrophoretic mobility shift assay or EMSA) studies of Ku binding to linear double-stranded DNA. Ku interaction with 1-site DNA is noncooperative, as expected. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays indicate cooperativity in the binding of Ku molecules to DNA long enough for two Ku molecules to bind (2-site DNA). For the kinetic studies, we use surface plasmon resonance in which one end of the DNA molecules is linked to a surface while the other end is free to interact with Ku. We find that one Ku molecule dissociates from 1-site DNA with simple Langmuir (i.e., independent) kinetics. However, two Ku molecules associate and dissociate from 2-site DNA with a time course that cannot be described as a simple Langmuir interaction. On 3- and 4-site DNA, EMSA and SPR studies do not reveal any cooperativity, suggesting that the middle Ku does not exhibit cooperative interaction with the two Ku molecules bound at the DNA ends. These results indicate that Ku molecules can demonstrate cooperative interaction, and this is influenced by their positions along the DNA.
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