Telomeres are protein-DNA elements that are located at the ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes. In concert with various telomere-binding proteins, they play an essential role in genome stability. We determined the structure of the DNA-binding domain of NgTRF1, a double-stranded telomere-binding protein of tobacco, using multidimensional NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography. The DNA-binding domain of NgTRF1 contained the Myb-like domain and C-terminal Myb-extension that is characteristic of plant double-stranded telomere-binding proteins. It encompassed amino acids 561-681 (NgTRF1561-681), and was composed of 4 α-helices. We also determined the structure of NgTRF1561-681 bound to plant telomeric DNA. We identified several amino acid residues that interacted directly with DNA, and confirmed their role in the binding of NgTRF1 to telomere using site-directed mutagenesis. Based on a structural comparison of the DNA-binding domains of NgTRF1 and human TRF1 (hTRF1), NgTRF1 has both common and unique DNA-binding properties. Interaction of Myb-like domain with telomeric sequences is almost identical in NgTRF1561-681 with the DNA-binding domain of hTRF1. The interaction of Arg-638 with the telomeric DNA, which is unique in NgTRF1561-681, may provide the structural explanation for the specificity of NgTRF1 to the plant telomere sequences, (TTTAGGG)n.
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