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Rotation of DNA around intact strand in human topoisomerase I implies distinct mechanisms for positive and negative supercoil relaxation


Topoisomerases are enzymes of quintessence to the upkeep of superhelical DNA, and are vital for replication, transcription and recombination. An atomic-resolution model for human topoisomerase I in covalent complex with DNA is simulated using molecular dynamics with external potentials that mimic torque and bias the DNA duplex downstream of a single-strand cut to rotate around the intact strand, according to the prevailing enzymatic mechanism. The simulations reveal the first dynamical picture of how topoisomerase accommodates large-scale motion of DNA as it changes its supercoiling state, and indicate that relaxation of positive and negative supercoils are fundamentally different. To relax positive supercoils, two separate domains (the 'lips') of the protein open up by about 10-14 A, whereas to relax negative supercoils, a continuous loop connecting the upper and lower parts (and which was a hinge for opening the lips) stretches about 12 A while the lips remain unseparated. Normal mode analysis is additionally used to characterize the functional flexibility of the protein. Remarkably, the same combination of low-frequency eigenvectors exhibit the dominant contribution for both rotation mechanisms through a see-saw motion. The simulated mechanisms suggest mutations to control the relaxation of either type of supercoiling selectively and advance a hypothesis for the debated role of the N-terminal domain in supercoil relaxation.

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