High Sensitivity Measurement of Transcription Factor-DNA Binding Affinities by Competitive Titration Using Fluorescence Microscopy.


Gene Center and Department of Biochemistry, Center for Protein Science Munich (CIPSM), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München; [Email]


Accurate quantification of transcription factor (TF)-DNA interactions is essential for understanding the regulation of gene expression. Since existing approaches suffer from significant limitations, we have developed a new method for determining TF-DNA binding affinities with high sensitivity on a large scale. The assay relies on the established fluorescence anisotropy (FA) principle but introduces important technical improvements. First, we measure a full FA competitive titration curve in a single well by incorporating TF and a fluorescently labeled reference DNA in a porous agarose gel matrix. Unlabeled DNA oligomer is loaded on the top as a competitor and, through diffusion, forms a spatio-temporal gradient. The resulting FA gradient is then read out using a customized epifluorescence microscope setup. This improved setup greatly increases the sensitivity of FA signal detection, allowing both weak and strong binding to be reliably quantified, even for molecules of similar molecular weights. In this fashion, we can measure one titration curve per well of a multi-well plate, and through a fitting procedure, we can extract both the absolute dissociation constant (KD) and active protein concentration. By testing all single-point mutation variants of a given consensus binding sequence, we can survey the entire binding specificity landscape of a TF, typically on a single plate. The resulting position weight matrices (PWMs) outperform those derived from other methods in predicting in vivo TF occupancy. Here, we present a detailed guide for implementing HiP-FA on a conventional automated fluorescent microscope and the data analysis pipeline.

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