Characterization of facilitated diffusion of tumor suppressor p53 along DNA using single-molecule fluorescence imaging

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins can maintain and regulate cellular functions by accurately and quickly binding to target sequences among large amounts of nontarget DNA. The facilitated diffusion mechanism of DNA-binding proteins—a combination of three-dimensional (3D) diffusion and one-dimensional (1D) sliding along DNA—has been proposed to explain the target binding accuracy and rapidity and has been partially confirmed experimentally. Nonetheless, quantitative elucidation of the mechanism has remained difficult. Furthermore, many additional steps in facilitated diffusion have been proposed. In this review, we introduce the theoretical and experimental studies and the current understanding of facilitated diffusion of DNA-binding proteins. We focused on tumor suppressor p53 as a key protein subject to facilitated diffusion; p53 regulates various cellular processes such as cell cycle arrest, DNA repair, and apoptosis upon binding to a target sequence of DNA after activation by external stress to the cell. We describe the research on the 3D diffusion and 1D sliding of p53 mainly via single-molecule fluorescence microscopy. In addition to the demonstration of the 1D sliding of p53, recent experiments revealed multiple modes of 1D sliding, regulation of the target recognition, and the constant search distance despite changes in the concentrations of divalent cations. Furthermore, rotation-coupled 1D sliding along DNA is suggested. A comparison of parameters of the facilitated diffusion of p53 and those of other DNA-binding proteins characterized so far suggests that the ratio of 3D diffusion and 1D sliding is close to the theoretical optimum of 1:1 for several proteins including p53.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-50
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology C: Photochemistry Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 1


  • DNA
  • Facilitated diffusion
  • p53
  • Single-molecule fluorescence microscopy


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