TBP binding to the TATA box induces a specific downstream unwinding site that is targeted by pluramycin

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31 Scopus citations


Background: The TATA-binding protein (TBP) is one of the major components of the human TFIID multiprotein complex. It is important in directing the initiation of RNA transcription at a site immediately downstream of the TATA sequence (TATA box) found in many eukaryotic promoters. The crystal structure of TBP complexed with an oligonucleotide containing the TATA box revealed a protein with an approximate two-fold symmetry which apparently has symmetrical interactions with DNA. It is not known how an asymmetric effect involving downstream activation can be produced by an apparent symmetric complex. We set out to examine the state of DNA in the TBP-DNA complex using pluramycin, a small molecular weight probe of DNA accessibility. Results: Binding of TBP to the TATA box facilitates intercalation of pluramycin at a defined site immediately downstream of the TATA sequence through an apparent transient unwinding of the DNA. Pluramycin adducts are detected by the production of DNA strand breakage products upon heating. Incubation of pluramycin with the TBP-DNA complex facilitates the trapping of the specific complex by intercalation. Gel mobility shift and circularization assays reveal that the binding of pluramycin on the 3′-side of the TATA box region considerably stabilizes the TBP-DNA complex. Conclusions: We propose that the TBP-DNA-pluramycin ternary complex is a 'specific' binding mode in which TBP and pluramycin make compensatory alterations in DNA, accounting for the improved stability of the ternary complex. We also propose a model of the ternary complex that explains the observed asymmetric effect of TBP binding to the TATA box.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-469
Number of pages13
JournalChemistry and Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • TATA box
  • TBP
  • pluramycin
  • unwinding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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