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Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Feb;16(2):194-207.

Evolutionary analysis of TATA-less proximal promoter function.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of Missouri, Kansas City 64110, USA.


Many molecular studies describe how components of the proximal promoter affect transcriptional processes. However, these studies do not account for the likely effects of distant enhancers or chromatin structure, and thus it is difficult to conclude that the sequence variation in proximal promoters acts to modulate transcription in the natural context of the whole genome. This problem, the biological importance of proximal promoter sequence variation, can be addressed using a combination of molecular and evolutionary analyses. Provided here are molecular and evolutionary analyses of the variation in promoter function and sequence within and between populations of Fundulus heteroclitus for the lactate dehydrogenase-B (Ldh-B) proximal promoter. Approximately one third of the Ldh-B proximal promoter contains interspersed regions that are functionally important: (1) they bind transcription factors in vivo, (2) they effect a change in transcription as assayed by transient transfection into two different fish cell lines, and (3) they bind purified transcription factors in vitro. Evolutionary analyses that compare sequence variation in these functional regions versus the nonfunctional regions indicate that the changes in the Ldh-B proximal promoter sequences are due to directional selection. Thus, the Ldh-B proximal promoter sequence variations that affect transcriptional processes constitute a phenotypic change that is subject to natural selection, suggesting that proximal promoter sequence variation affects transcription in the natural context of the whole genome.

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