TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is a DNA/RNA-binding protein containing two consecutive RNA recognition motifs (RRM1 and RRM2) in tandem. Functional abnormality of TDP-43 has been proposed to cause neurodegeneration, but it remains obscure how the physiological functions of this protein are regulated. Here, we show distinct roles of RRM1 and RRM2 in the sequence-specific substrate recognition of TDP-43. RRM1 was found to bind a wide spectrum of ssDNA sequences, while no binding was observed between RRM2 and ssDNA. When two RRMs are fused in tandem as in native TDP-43, the fused construct almost exclusively binds ssDNA with a TG-repeat sequence. In contrast, such sequence-specificity was not observed in a simple mixture of RRM1 and RRM2. We thus propose that the spatial arrangement of multiple RRMs in DNA/RNA binding proteins provides steric effects on the substrate-binding site and thereby controls the specificity of its substrate nucleotide sequences.
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