The binding process of a protein with a DNA involves three stages: approach, encounter, and association. It has been known that the complexation of protein and DNA involves mutual conformational changes, especially for a specific sequence association. However, it is still unclear how the conformation and the information in the DNA sequences affects the binding process. What is the extent to which the DNA structure adopted in the complex is induced by protein binding, or is instead intrinsic to the DNA sequence? In this study, we used the multiscale simulation method to explore the binding process of a protein with DNA in terms of DNA sequence, conformation, and interactions. We found that in the approach stage the protein can bind both the major and minor groove of the DNA, but uses different features to locate the binding site. The intrinsic conformational properties of the DNA play a significant role in this binding stage. By comparing the specific DNA with the nonspecific in unbound, intermediate, and associated states, we found that for a specific DNA sequence, ∼40% of the bending in the association forms is intrinsic and that ∼60% is induced by the protein. The protein does not induce appreciable bending of nonspecific DNA. In addition, we proposed that the DNA shape variations induced by protein binding are required in the early stage of the binding process, so that the protein is able to approach, encounter, and form an intermediate at the correct site on DNA.
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