Contact-site cross-linking agents. Academic Article uri icon


  • Contact-site cross-linking agents comprise a heterogeneous grouping of cross-linkers which share the common property of being able to cross-link only very closely juxtaposed residues in macromolecular complexes. We have defined contact-site cross-linking arbitrarily as the covalent joining of residues such that they are constrained to a distance which is equivalent to or less than their closest possible steric approach prior to becoming linked (1). We recognize two classes of contact-site cross-linkers, bridge type and zero-length type. The former, such as formaldehyde, become incorporated during cross-linking as one-atom bridges. The latter, such as the carbodiimides, operate as condensing agents with the result that the cross-linked residues become interjoined directly. Contact-site cross-linkers have been used in several ways as specific probes of both the static and dynamic aspects of macromolecular structure. They can yield precise structural information about macromolecular contacts when actual sites of cross-linking are determined by peptide or nucleotide mapping techniques. In this way exact contacts between histones in the nucleosome, between protein and RNA in the ribosome, and between RNA polymerase and DNA have been determined. Contact-site cross-linkers have also been used to probe the perturbation of contacts following macromolecular conformational changes. Certain histone-histone 'cross-linkable' sites are rendered unreactive after induction of chromatin conformational changes thus serving to localize sites of perturbation.

published proceedings

  • Mol Cell Biochem

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Kunkel, G. R., Mehrabian, M., & Martinson, H. G.

citation count

  • 75

publication date

  • January 1981