Ku polypeptides synthesized in vitro assemble into complexes which recognize ends of double-stranded DNA

Andrew J. Griffith, Peter R. Blier, Tsuneyo Mimori, John A. Hardin

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97 Scopus citations


The Ku protein is composed of two polypeptide subunits, p70 and p80, and binds DNA ends in vitro. Previous studies suggested that p70 and p80 are physically associated in vivo, although such an association may have been mediated by DNA. We have now utilized full-length Ku polypeptides synthesized in vitro to examine the association of p70, p80, and linear DNA to form a complex. In gel filtration chromatography, p70 migrates as a 70-kDa structure, whereas p80 migrates at 150 kDa. Co-translation of the two cDNAs yields complexes which migrate at 300 kDa and contain equimolar quantities of the p70 and p80 polypeptides, providing direct evidence that p70 and p80 assemble into a complex in the absence of DNA. To demonstrate that this recombinant protein complex binds DNA, we developed a radiolabeled protein electrophoretic mobility shift assay. When radiolabeled proteins synthesized in vitro were incubated with linear DNA and fractionated in a nonreducing, nondenaturing gel, a band representing a complex of p70, p80, and the DNA was seen. Formation of this Ku-DNA complex required free DNA ends, and binding to DNA ends was not observed with individual p70 or p80 subunits. DNA binding was not reconstituted by mixing the individual subunits together. These studies thus demonstrate that it is the complex of p70 and p80, not individual p70 or p80, which possesses the DNA binding properties previously described for native Ku protein. These results provide new information about the assembly, structure, and DNA binding properties of the Ku protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-338
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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