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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Combination of native and denaturing PAGE for the detection of protein binding regions in long fragments of genomic DNA

Kristel Kaer, Kert Mätlik, Madis Metsis and Mart Speek*

Author Affiliations

Department of Gene Technology, Tallinn University of Technology, Akadeemia tee 15, Tallinn 19086, Estonia

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:272  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-272

Published: 4 June 2008



In a traditional electrophoresis mobility shift assay (EMSA) a 32P-labeled double-stranded DNA oligonucleotide or a restriction fragment bound to a protein is separated from the unbound DNA by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) in nondenaturing conditions. An extension of this method uses the large population of fragments derived from long genomic regions (approximately 600 kb) for the identification of fragments containing protein binding regions. With this method, genomic DNA is fragmented by restriction enzymes, fragments are amplified by PCR, radiolabeled, incubated with nuclear proteins and the resulting DNA-protein complexes are separated by two-dimensional PAGE. Shifted DNA fragments containing protein binding sites are identified by using additional procedures, i. e. gel elution, PCR amplification, cloning and sequencing. Although the method allows simultaneous analysis of a large population of fragments, it is relatively laborious and can be used to detect only high affinity protein binding sites. Here we propose an alternative and straightforward strategy which is based on a combination of native and denaturing PAGE. This strategy allows the identification of DNA fragments containing low as well as high affinity protein binding regions, derived from genomic DNA (<10 kb) of known sequence.


We have combined an EMSA-based selection step with subsequent denaturing PAGE for the localization of protein binding regions in long (up to10 kb) fragments of genomic DNA. Our strategy consists of the following steps: digestion of genomic DNA with a 4-cutter restriction enzyme (AluI, BsuRI, TruI, etc), separation of low and high molecular weight fractions of resultant DNA fragments, 32P-labeling with Klenow polymerase, traditional EMSA, gel elution and identification of the shifted bands (or smear) by denaturing PAGE. The identification of DNA fragments containing protein binding sites is carried out by running the gel-eluted fragments alongside with the full "spectrum" of initial restriction fragments of known size. Here the strategy is used for the identification of protein-binding regions in the 5' region of the rat p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) gene.


The developed strategy is based on a combination of traditional EMSA and denaturing PAGE for the identification of protein binding regions in long fragments of genomic DNA. The identification is straightforward and can be applied to shifted bands corresponding to stable DNA-protein complexes as well as unstable complexes, which undergo dissociation during electrophoresis.