Discovering properties of new DNA-binding activity of proteins

  • Xueting Wang

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Protein-DNA interactions are an essential feature in the genetic activities of life, and the ability to predict and manipulate such interactions has applications in a wide range of fields. This Thesis presents the methods of modelling the properties of protein-DNA interactions. In particular, it investigates the methods of visualising and predicting the specificity of DNA-binding Cys2His2 zinc finger interaction. The Cys2His2 zinc finger proteins interact via their individual fingers to base pair subsites on the target DNA. Four key residue positions on the a- helix of the zinc fingers make non-covalent interactions with the DNA with sequence specificity. Mutating these key residues generates combinatorial possibilities that could potentially bind to any DNA segment of interest. Many attempts have been made to predict the binding interaction using structural and chemical information, but with only limited success.
    The most important contribution of the thesis is that the developed model allows for the binding properties of a given protein-DNA binding to be visualised in relation to other protein-DNA combinations without having to explicitly physically model the specific protein molecule and specific DNA sequence. To prove this, various databases were generated, including a synthetic database which includes all possible combinations of the DNA-binding Cys2His2 zinc finger interactions. NeuroScale, a topographic visualisation technique, is exploited to represent the geometric structures of the protein-DNA interactions by measuring dissimilarity between the data points. In order to verify the effect of visualisation on understanding the binding properties of the DNA-binding Cys2His2 zinc finger interaction, various prediction models are constructed by using both the high dimensional original data and the represented data in low dimensional feature space. Finally, novel data sets are studied through the selected visualisation models based on the experimental DNA-zinc finger protein database. The result of the NeuroScale projection shows that different dissimilarity representations give distinctive structural groupings, but clustering in biologically-interesting ways. This method can be used to forecast the physiochemical properties of the novel proteins which may be beneficial for therapeutic purposes involving genome targeting in general.

    Date of Award18 Jun 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDavid Lowe (Supervisor) & Anna V. Hine (Supervisor)


    • DNA-binding
    • Cys2His2
    • zinc finger interaction
    • dissimilarity measures
    • high-dimensional data visualisation
    • new data prediction

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