Peggy Whitson is a biochemist. She did her Ph.D. with Kathleen Mathews at Rice University in Houston, Texas, USA. I frequently refer to her work on the lac repressor and its interaction with lac operator sequences [see Repression of the lac Operon]. Here are some of her papers. Once you understand this stuff, you are in a better position to judge the ENCODE results and the role of spurious binding sites.
The influence of additional operator or pseudooperator sequences on the lactose repressor-operator interaction has been investigated. Results of kinetic and equilibrium binding measurements suggest an important in vivo role for the Z-gene pseudooperator in repressor-operator binding; the formation of a ternary, looped complex is indicated by the influence of secondary operator sites on binding parameters. Although the binding affinity of the Z-gene pseudooperator [Oz] is only approximately 1/30 that observed for the primary operator [O], the binding affinity to DNA containing both Oz and O is significantly higher than either sequence alone or the sum of the two. This synergistic effect is enhanced further by replacing the pseudooperator sequence [Oz] with the primary operator sequence and results in an even stronger ternary complex in plasmids with duplicate primary sites. The distance between the center of the two primary operators affects the formation of a ternary complex in the linear DNA molecules. Decreased dissociation rate constants were observed with spacing of operator-like sequences between 300 and 500 base pairs (bp). Minimal influence of the second operator on repressor binding is observed when the operators are separated by approximately 4000 or approximately 100 bp. The significant influence of distance on kinetic and equilibrium parameters was demonstrated by measurements on plasmid pRW1511 [Oi-O-PL-Oz] cleaved with restriction enzymes either in the polylinker region to place Oi-O and Oz on opposite ends of the linear plasmid or outside this region to maintain the sites within 500 bp. These results are consistent with the formation of operator-repressor-pseudooperator ternary complex to generate a looped DNA structure.
Whitson, P.A., Hsieh, W.T., Wells, R.D., and Matthews, K.S. (1987) Supercoiling facilitates lac operator-repressor-pseudooperator interactions. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 262:4943-4946.
The binding affinity of the Escherichia coli lactose repressor to operator-containing plasmids was increased by negative supercoiling of the DNA. The increased affinities observed were dependent on the sequence context of the DNA as well as the degree of supercoiling. Dissociation rate constants for plasmids containing a single operator site decreased as a function of the negative supercoil density. However, the presence of pseudooperators in the plasmid DNA in addition to the primary operator sequence resulted in a significant decrease in the operator-plasmid dissociation rate at higher negative supercoil densities. Approximately eight ionic interactions were determined for both the supercoiled plasmids and the linear DNAs examined. These results suggest that the stabilization provided by the topology of supercoiled DNA affects the nonionic component of the protein-DNA interaction. The ability to form a ternary complex of protein with two DNA segments is increased by the presence of multiple operator-like sites on the DNA. Furthermore, supercoiling DNA with multiple operator-like sequences profoundly diminishes the dissociation rate and results in a remarkably stable ternary, presumably looped complex (t1/2 approximately 28 h). These data suggest a critical role in vivo for DNA topology and pseudooperator(s) in transcriptional regulation of the lac operon.
Whitson, P.A., Hsieh, W.T., Wells, R.D., and Matthews, K.S. (1987) Influence of supercoiling and sequence context on operator DNA binding with lac repressor. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 262(30), 14592-14599.
The dissociation of the repressor-operator complex from a series of negatively supercoiled plasmid DNAs was examined as a function of the sequence context, orientation, and spacing. The plasmids were grouped into four classes, each with common sequence context. The highest dissociation rate constants were observed for the plasmids containing only a single operator (or pseudooperator) sequence, while approximately 10-fold lower rate constants were measured for plasmids with the I gene pseudooperator in conjunction with either the Z gene pseudooperator or the primary operator. Comparison of the behavior of these two classes of plasmids demonstrated the importance of two operator sequences and supported a model of DNA loop formation to stabilize the repressor-operator complex (Whitson, P. A., and Matthews, K. S. (1986) Biochemistry 25, 3845-3852; Whitson, P. A., Olson, J. S., and Matthews, K. S. (1986) Biochemistry 25, 3852-3858; Whitson, P. A., Hsieh, W. T., Wells, R. D., and Matthews, K. S. (1987) J. Biol. Chem. 262, 4943-4946; Krämer, H., Niemöller, M., Amouyal, M., Revet, B., von Wilcken-Bergmann, B., and Müller-Hill, B. (1987) EMBO J. 6, 1481-1491). The third class, with intermediate dissociation rate constants, was comprised of plasmids which contained the primary operator and the higher affinity pseudooperator normally located in the Z gene. Neither the additional presence of the I gene pseudooperator nor the orientation of the primary operator relative to the Z gene pseudooperator significantly affected the dissociation rate constants. The binding characteristics of this group of plasmids demonstrated the essential role of the Z gene pseudooperator in the formation of intramolecular ternary complex and suggested an in vivo function for this pseudooperator. Plasmids containing two primary operator sequences were the class with lowest dissociation rate constants from lac repressor, and minimal effects of salt or spacing on dissociation of this class were observed. These data are consistent with formation of an intramolecular complex with a looped DNA segment stabilized by the combination of increased local concentration of binding sites and torsional stresses on the DNA which favor binding in supercoiled DNA.
Whitson, P.A., and Matthews, K.S. (1986) Dissociation of the lactose repressor-operator DNA complex: Effects of size and sequence context of operator-containing DNA. Biochemistry, 25:3845-3852.
The dissociation kinetics for repressor-32P-labeled operator DNA have been examined by adding unlabeled operator DNA to trap released repressor or by adding a small volume of concentrated salt solution to shift the Kd of repressor-operator interaction. The dissociation rate constant for pLA 322-8, an operator-containing derivative of pBR 322, was 2.4 × 10-3 s-1 in 0.15 M KCl. The dissociation rate constant at 0.15 M KC1 for both Xplac and pIQ, each of which contain two pseudooperator sequences, was ~6 × l0-4 s-1. Elimination of Elimination flanking nonspecific DNA sequences by use of a 40 base pair operator-containing DNA fragment yielded a dissociation rate constant of 9.3 × 10-3 s-l. The size and salt dependences of the rate constants suggest that dissociation occurs as a multistep process. The data for all the DNAs examined are consistent with a sliding mechanism of facilitated diffusion to/from the operator site. The ability to form a ternary complex of two operators per repressor, determined by stoichiometry measurements, and the diminished dissociation rates in the presence of intramolecular nonspecific and pseudooperator DNA sites suggest the formation of an intramolecular ternary complex. The salt dependence of the dissociation rate constant for pLA 322-8 at high salt concentrations converges with that for a 40 base pair operator. The similarity in dissociation rate constants for pLA 322-8 and a 40 base pair operator fragment under these conditions indicates a common dissociation mechanism from a primary operator site on the repressor.