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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Monitoring Nuclease Activity by X-Ray Scattering Interferometry Using Gold Nanoparticle-Conjugated DNA

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The biologically critical, exquisite specificity and efficiency of nucleases, such as those acting in DNA repair and replication, often emerge in the context of multiple other macromolecules. The evolved complexity also makes biologically relevant nuclease assays challenging and low-throughput. Meiotic recombination 11 homolog 1 (MRE11) is an exemplary nuclease that initiates DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair and processes stalled DNA replication forks. Thus, DNA resection by MRE11 nuclease activity is critical for multiple DSB repair pathways as well as in replication. Traditionally, in vitro nuclease activity of purified enzymes is studied either through gel-based assays or fluorescence-based assays like fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). However, adapting these methods for a high-throughput application such as inhibitor screening can be challenging. Gel-based approaches are slow, and FRET assays can suffer from interference and distance limitations. Here we describe an alternative methodology to monitor nuclease activity by measuring the small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) interference pattern from gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) conjugated to 5'-ends of dsDNA using X-ray scattering interferometry (XSI). In addition to reporting on the enzyme activity, XSI can provide insight into DNA-protein interactions, aiding in the development of inhibitors that trap enzymes on the DNA substrate. Enabled by efficient access to synchrotron beamlines, sample preparation, and the feasibility of high-throughput XSI data collection and processing pipelines, this method allows for far greater speeds with less sample consumption than conventional SAXS techniques. The reported metrics and methods can be generalized to monitor not only other nucleases but also most other DNA-protein interactions.

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