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Nucleic Acids Res. 1998 Oct 1; 26(19): 4413–4421.
PMCID: PMC147871

AT-hook motifs identified in a wide variety of DNA-binding proteins.


The AT-hook is a small DNA-binding protein motif which was first described in the high mobility group non-histone chromosomal protein HMG-I(Y). Since its discovery, this motif has been observed in other DNA-binding proteins from a wide range of organisms. Using pattern searches and position-dependent matrices, we have extracted the AT-hook motifs present in a non-redundant protein sequence database. We have classified these motifs into three types according to their sequence similarity and have found that they are prevalent in many eukaryotic nuclear proteins in single or multiple copies. Furthermore, AT-hook motifs are frequently associated with known functional domains seen in chromatin proteins and in DNA-binding proteins (e.g. histone folds, homeodomains and zinc fingers). In general, it appears that the AT-hook motif is an auxiliary protein motif cooperating with other DNA-binding activities and facilitating changes in the structure of the DNA either as a polypeptide on its own [e.g. HMG-I(Y)] or as part of a multidomain protein [e.g. Swi2p in Saccharomyces cerevisiae or HRX (ALL-1) in Homo sapiens]. It is most interesting that this motif seems to be quite specific to known or predicted chromosomal/DNA-binding proteins, suggesting that it may act as a versatile minor groove tether.

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