Filament formation by metabolic, biosynthetic, and other enzymes has recently come into focus as a mechanism to fine-tune enzyme activity in the cell. Filamentation is key to the function of SgrAI, a sequence-specific DNA endonuclease that has served as a model system to provide some of the deepest insights into the biophysical characteristics of filamentation and its functional consequences. Structure-function analyses reveal that, in the filamentous state, SgrAI stabilizes an activated enzyme conformation that leads to accelerated DNA cleavage activity and expanded DNA sequence specificity. The latter is thought to be mediated by sequence-specific DNA structure, protein-DNA interactions, and a disorder-to-order transition in the protein, which collectively affect the relative stabilities of the inactive, non-filamentous conformation and the active, filamentous conformation of SgrAI bound to DNA. Full global kinetic modeling of the DNA cleavage pathway reveals a slow, rate-limiting, second-order association rate constant for filament assembly, and simulations of in vivo activity predict that filamentation is superior to non-filamenting mechanisms in ensuring rapid activation and sequestration of SgrAI's DNA cleavage activity on phage DNA and away from the host chromosome. In vivo studies demonstrate the critical requirement for accelerated DNA cleavage by SgrAI in its biological role to safeguard the bacterial host. Collectively, these data have advanced our understanding of how filamentation can regulate enzyme structure and function, while the experimental strategies used for SgrAI can be applied to other enzymatic systems to identify novel functional roles for filamentation.
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