Skipping events impose repeated binding attempts: profound kinetic implications of protein–DNA conformational changes

Elena Rogoulenko, Yaakov Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The kinetics of protein–DNA recognition, along with its thermodynamic properties, including affinity and specificity, play a central role in shaping biological function. Protein–DNA recognition kinetics are characterized by two key elements: the time taken to locate the target site amid various nonspecific alternatives; and the kinetics involved in the recognition process, which may necessitate overcoming an energetic barrier. In this study, we developed a coarse-grained (CG) model to investigate interactions between a transcription factor called the sex-determining region Y (SRY) protein and DNA, in order to probe how DNA conformational changes affect SRY–DNA recognition and binding kinetics. We find that, not only does a requirement for such a conformational DNA transition correspond to a higher energetic barrier for binding and therefore slower kinetics, it may further impede the recognition kinetics by increasing unsuccessful binding events (skipping events) where the protein partially binds its DNA target site but fails to form the specific protein–DNA complex. Such skipping events impose the need for additional cycles protein search of nonspecific DNA sites, thus significantly extending the overall recognition time. Our results highlight a trade-off between the speed with which the protein scans nonspecific DNA and the rate at which the protein recognizes its specific target site. Finally, we examine molecular approaches potentially adopted by natural systems to enhance protein–DNA recognition despite its intrinsically slow kinetics.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergkae333
Pages (from-to)gkae333
JournalNucleic acids research
StatePublished Online - 8 May 2024


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