Dynamics and inhibition of MLL1 CXXC domain on DNA revealed by single-molecule quantification

Lin Liang, Kangkang Ma, Zeyu Wang, Richard Janissen, Zhongbo Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


CpG islands recruit MLL1 via the CXXC domain to modulate chromatin structure and regulate gene expression. The amino acid motif of CXXC also plays a pivotal role in MLL1’s structure and function and serves as a target for drug design. In addition, the CpG pattern in an island governs spatially dependent collaboration among CpGs in recruiting epigenetic enzymes. However, current studies using short DNA fragments cannot probe the dynamics of CXXC on long DNA with crowded CpG motifs. Here, we used single-molecule magnetic tweezers to examine the binding dynamics of MLL1’s CXXC domain on a long DNA with a CpG island. The mechanical strand separation assay allows profiling of protein-DNA complexes and reports force-dependent unfolding times. Further design of a hairpin detector reveals the unfolding time of individual CXXC-CpG complexes. Finally, in a proof of concept we demonstrate the inhibiting effect of dimethyl fumarate on the CXXC-DNA complexes by measuring the dose response curve of the unfolding time. This demonstrates the potential feasibility of using single-molecule strand separation as a label-free detector in drug discovery and chemical biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3283-3291
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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