The DNA cytosine deaminase APOBEC3G (A3G) is a two-domain protein that binds single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) largely through its N-terminal domain and catalyzes deamination using its C-terminal domain. A3G is considered an innate immune effector protein, with a natural capacity to block the replication of retroviruses such as HIV and retrotransposons. However, knowledge about its biophysical properties and mechanism of interaction with DNA are still limited. Oligomerization is one of these unclear issues. What is the stoichiometry of the free protein? What are the factors defining the oligomeric state of the protein? How does the protein oligomerization change upon DNA binding? How stable are protein oligomers? We address these questions here using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to directly image A3G protein in a free-state and in complexes with DNA, and using time-lapse AFM imaging to characterize the dynamics of A3G oligomers. We found that the formation of oligomers is an inherent property of A3G and that the yield of oligomers depends on the protein concentration. Oligomerization of A3G in complexes with ssDNA follows a similar pattern: the higher the protein concentrations the larger oligomers sizes. The specificity of A3G binding to ssDNA does not depend on stoichiometry. The binding of large A3G oligomers requires a longer ssDNA substrate; therefore, much smaller oligomers form complexes with short ssDNA. A3G oligomers dissociate spontaneously into monomers and this process primarily occurs through a monomer dissociation pathway.
- Atomic force microscopy
- High-speed AFM
- Single-stranded DNA binding proteins
- Site search mechanisms