Eukaryotic promoters often contain a bent DNA structure, suggesting that this structure plays some role in transcription. To reveal the role, we need more information on the promoters that contain or flank a bent DNA structure. In this study, we collected such promoters by the following approach: we first isolated human genomic DNA fragments that contained at least one bent DNA structure, then shotgun cloned them into a promoter trap vector, screened DNA fragments that functioned as a promoter, and finally found the promoters of interest by determining the bent DNA locus and the region expressing promoter activity. From 1187 recombinant plasmids, we isolated 51 that showed promoter activity. Structural and functional analyses of randomly selected 10 clones with inserts of 548-913 bp demonstrated 11 sequences that could drive transcription. Unexpectedly, all of these clones met our purpose: i.e., each segment that showed a promoter activity (67-179 bp) was very close to the bent DNA structure (spanning about 150 bp in all clones), and in some cases overlapped it. More interestingly, these bent DNA structures all had a superhelical writhe. We propose a hypothesis that in the bent-DNA-containing eukaryotic promoters, bent DNA organizes local chromatin infrastructure appropriately for transcription initiation.
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