DNA binds to a specific site of the adhesive blood-protein von Willebrand factor guided by electrostatic interactions
Neutrophils release their intracellular content, DNA included, into the bloodstream to form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) that confine and kill circulating pathogens. The mechanosensitive adhesive blood protein, von Willebrand Factor (vWF), interacts with the extracellular DNA of NETs to potentially immobilize them during inflammatory and coagulatory conditions. Here, we elucidate the previously unknown molecular mechanism governing the DNA-vWF interaction by integrating atomistic,
... ing atomistic, coarsegrained, and Brownian dynamics simulations, with thermophoresis, gel electrophoresis, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), and microfluidic experiments. We demonstrate that, independently of its nucleotide sequence, double-stranded DNA binds to a specific helix of the vWF A1 domain, via three arginines. This interaction is attenuated by increasing the ionic strength. Our FCS and microfluidic measurements also highlight the key role shear-stress has in enabling this interaction. Our simulations attribute the previously-observed platelet-recruitment reduction and heparin-size modulation, upon establishment of DNA-vWF interactions, to indirect steric hindrance and partial overlap of the binding sites, respectively. Overall, we sug-gest electrostatics--guiding DNA to a specific protein binding site--as the main driving force defining DNA-vWF recognition. The molecular picture of a key shear-mediated DNA-protein interaction is provided here and it constitutes the basis for understanding NETs-mediated immune and hemostatic responses.