Insights into copper coordination in the EcoRI–DNA complex by ESR spectroscopy

The EcoRI restriction endonuclease requires one divalent metal ion in each of two symmetrical and identical catalytic sites to catalyse double-strand DNA cleavage. Recently, we showed that Cu2+ binds outside the catalytic sites to a pair of new sites at H114 in each sub-unit, and inhibits Mg2+-catalysed DNA cleavage. In order to provide more detailed structural information on this new metal ion binding site, we performed W-band (∼94 GHz) and X-band (∼9.5 GHz) electron spin resonance spectroscopic measurements on the EcoRI–DNA–(Cu2+)2 complex. Cu2+ binding results in two distinct components with different gzz and Azz values. X-band electron spin echo envelope modulation results indicate that both components arise from a Cu2+ coordinated to histidine. This observation is further confirmed by the hyperfine sub-level correlation results. W-band electron nuclear double resonance spectra provide evidence for equatorial coordination of water molecules to the Cu2+ ions.