© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.
Telomere protection and length regulation are important processes for aging, cancer and several other diseases. At the heart of these processes lies the single-stranded DNA (ssDNA)-binding protein Pot1, a component of the telomere maintenance complex shelterin, which is present in species ranging from fission yeast to humans. Pot1 contains a dual OB-fold DNA-binding domain (DBD) that fully confers its high affinity for telomeric ssDNA. Studies of S. pombe Pot1-DBD and its individual OB-fold domains revealed a complex non-additive behavior of the two OB-folds in the context of the complete Pot1 protein. This behavior includes the use of multiple distinct binding modes and an ability to form higher order complexes. Here we use NMR and biochemical techniques to investigate the structural features of the complete Pot1-DBD. These experiments reveal one binding mode characterized by only subtle alternations to the individual OB-fold subdomain structures, resulting in an inaccessible 3' end of the ssDNA. The second binding mode, which has equivalent affinity, interacts differently with the 3' end, rendering it available for interaction with other proteins. These findings suggest a structural switch that contributes to telomere end-protection and length regulation.