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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 28, 1995; 92(7): 3041–3045.

Spacing of palindromic half sites as a determinant of selective STAT (signal transducers and activators of transcription) DNA binding and transcriptional activity.


Signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT proteins) bind to palindromic sequence elements related to interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) activation sites, which were first identified in the promoters of IFN-gamma-inducible genes. Although the sequences of the natural palindromic STAT-binding elements vary considerably, they conform to the general structure TT(N)5AA. We have systematically examined the effects of the spacing between the TT and AA core half sites on the binding of the STAT complexes activated by IFN-gamma, interleukin (IL) 6, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and IL-4. We show that (i) as suggested earlier, a core palindromic TT--AA motif with a 5-bp spacing displays general STAT binding, (ii) a palindromic motif with a spacing of 4 bp selectively binds to complexes containing Stat3, and (iii) a motif with a 6-bp spacing selectively binds the STAT complexes activated by IL-4. We have examined natural elements in the promoters of cytokine-responsive genes that differ in half-site spacing and found that they display binding properties predicted from the synthetic binding sites. Furthermore, the observed differential selective binding characteristics for the most part correlate with the ability to mediate transcriptional activation of transfected test genes in response to the cytokines tested. Our results thus demonstrate that the specificity of STAT-directed transcription in response to particular cytokines or cytokine families depends in part on the spacing of half sites within the conserved response element sequence.

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