DNA binding specificity of the bovine papillomavirus E1 protein is determined by sequences contained within an 18-base-pair inverted repeat element at the origin of replication.
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Bovine papillomavirus type 1 (BPV-1) DNA replicates episomally and requires two virally expressed proteins, E1 and E2, for this process. Both proteins bind to the BPV-1 genome in the region that functions as the origin of replication. The binding sequences for the E2 protein have been characterized previously, but little is known about critical sequence requirements for E1 binding. Using a bacterially expressed E1 fusion protein, we examined binding of the BPV-1 E1 protein to the origin region. E1 strongly protected a 28-bp segment of the origin (nucleotides 7932 to 15) from both DNase I and exonuclease III digestion. Additional exonuclease III protection was observed beyond the core region on both the 5' and 3' sides, suggesting that E1 interacted with more distal sequences as well. Within the 28-bp protected core, there were two overlapping imperfect inverted repeats (IR), one of 27 bp and one of 18 bp. We show that sequences within the smaller, 18-bp IR element were sufficient for specific recognition of DNA by E1 and that additional BPV-1 sequences beyond the 18-bp IR element did not significantly increase origin binding by E1 protein. While the 18-bp IR element contained sequences sufficient for specific binding by E1, E1 did not form a stable complex with just the isolated 18-bp element. Formation of a detectable E1-DNA complex required that the 18-bp IR be flanked by additional DNA sequences. Furthermore, binding of E1 to DNA containing the 18-bp IR increased as a function of overall increasing fragment length. We conclude that E1-DNA interactions outside the boundaries of the 18-bp IR are important for thermodynamic stabilization of the E1-DNA complex. However, since the flanking sequences need not be derived from BPV-1, these distal E1-DNA interactions are not sequence specific. Comparison of the 18-bp IR from BPV-1 with the corresponding region from other papillomaviruses revealed a symmetric conserved consensus sequence, T-RY--TTAA--RY-A, that may reflect the specific nucleotides critical for E1-DNA recognition.