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Molecular goniometers for single-particle cryo-EM of DNA-binding proteins

By Tural Aksel, Zanlin Yu, Yifan Cheng, Shawn M. Douglas

Posted 28 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.27.968883

Correct reconstruction of macromolecular structure by cryo-electron microscopy relies on accurate determination of the orientation of single-particle images. For small (<100 kDa) DNA-binding proteins, obtaining particle images with sufficiently asymmetric features to correctly guide alignment is challenging. DNA nanotechnology was conceived as a potential tool for building host nanostructures to prescribe the locations and orientations of docked proteins. We used DNA origami to construct molecular goniometers--instruments to precisely orient objects--to dock a DNA-binding protein on a double-helix stage that has user-programmable tilt and rotation angles. Each protein orientation maps to a distinct barcode pattern specifying particle classification and angle assignment. We used goniometers to obtain a 6.5 A structure of BurrH, an 82-kDa DNA-binding protein whose helical pseudosymmetry prevents accurate image orientation using classical cryo-EM. Our approach should be adaptable for other DNA-binding proteins, and a wide variety of other small proteins, by fusing DNA binding domains to them.

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