Nitrocellulose-filter binding is a powerful technique commonly used to study protein-nucleic acid interactions; however, its utility in quantitative studies is often compromised by its lack of precision. To improve precision and accuracy, we have introduced two modifications to the traditional technique: the use of a 96-well dot-blot apparatus and the addition of a DEAE membrane beneath the nitrocellulose membrane. Using the dot-blot apparatus, an entire triplicate set of data spanning 20-24 titrant concentrations can be collected on a single 4.5 x 5 inch sheet of nitrocellulose, obviating the need to manipulate separate filters for each titration point. The entire titration can then be quantitated simultaneously with direct two-dimensional beta-emission imaging technology. The DEAE second membrane traps all DNA that does not bind to the nitrocellulose, enabling a direct determination of the total amount of DNA filtered. This measurement improves precision by allowing the amount of DNA retained by the nitrocellulose to be normalized against the total amount of DNA filtered. The DEAE membrane also permits a more accurate quantitation of filter-retention efficiency and nonspecific background retention based on free DNA rather than total DNA filtered. The general approach and methods of analysis to obtain equilibrium binding isotherms are discussed, using as examples our studies of the Escherichia coli Rep protein, a helicase, and its interactions with short oligodeoxynucleotides.
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