Escherichia coli single-stranded DNA-binding protein: Multiple DNA-binding modes and cooperatives

T. M. Lohman, M. E. Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

518 Scopus citations


There are now several well-documented SSBs from both prokaryotes and eukaryotes that function in replication, recombination, and repair; however, no 'consensus' view of their interactions with ssDNA has emerged. Although these proteins all bind preferentially and with high affinity to ssDNA, their modes of binding to ssDNA in vitro, including whether they bind with cooperativity, often differ dramatically. This point is most clear upon comparing the properties of the phage T4 gene 32 protein and the E. coli SSB protein. Depending on the solution conditions, Eco SSB can bind ssDNA in several different modes, which display quite different properties, including cooperativity. The wide range of interactions with ssDNA observed for Eco SSB is due principally to its tetrameric structure and the fact that each SSB promoter (subunit) can bind ssDNA. This reflects a major difference between Eco SSB and the T4 gene 32 protein, which binds DNA as a monomer and displays 'unlimited' positive cooperativity in its binding to ssDNA. The Eco SSB tetramer can bind ssDNA with at least two different types of nearest-neighbor positive cooperativity ('limited' and 'unlimited'), as well as negative cooperativity among the subunits within an individual tetramer. In fact, this latter property, which is dependent upon salt concentration and nucleotide base composition, is a major factor influencing whether ssDNA interacts with all four or only two SSB subunits, which in turn determines the type of intertetramer positive cooperativity. Hence, it is clear that the interactions of Eco SSB with ssDNA are quite different from those of T4 gene 32 protein, and the idea that all SSBs bind to ssDNA as does the T4 gene 32 protein must be amended. Although it is not yet known which of the Eco SSB-binding modes is functionally important in vivo, it is possible that some of the modes are used preferentially in different DNA metabolic processes. In any event, the vastly different properties of the Eco SSB-binding modes must be considered in studies of DNA replication, recombination, and repair in vitro. Since eukaryotic mitochondrial SSBs as well as SSBs encoded by prokaryotic conjugative plasmids are highly similar to Eco SSB, these proteins are likely to show similar complexities. However, based on their heterotrimeric subunit composition, the eukaryotic nuclear SSBs (RP-A proteins) are significantly different from either Eco SSB or T4 gene 32 proteins. Further subclassification of these proteins must await more detailed biochemical and biophysical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-570
Number of pages44
JournalAnnual review of biochemistry
StatePublished - 1994


  • DNA recombination and repair
  • DNA replication
  • SSB proteins
  • cooperativity
  • single-stranded DNA-binding proteins


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