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EMBO J. 1999 Mar 15;18(6):1621-9.

A trans-acting peptide activates the yeast a1 repressor by raising its DNA-binding affinity.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0414, USA.


The cooperative binding of gene regulatory proteins to DNA is a common feature of transcriptional control in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. It is generally viewed as a simple energy coupling, through protein-protein interactions, of two or more DNA-binding proteins. In this paper, we show that the simple view does not account for the cooperative DNA binding of a1 and alpha2, two homeodomain proteins from budding yeast. Rather, we show through the use of chimeric proteins and synthetic peptides that, upon heterodimerization, alpha2 instructs a1 to bind DNA. This change is induced by contact with a peptide contributed by alpha2, and this contact converts a1 from a weak to a strong DNA-binding protein. This explains, in part, how high DNA-binding specificity is achieved only when the two gene regulatory proteins conjoin. We also provide evidence that features of the a1-alpha2 interaction can serve as a model for other examples of protein-protein interactions, including that between the herpes virus transcriptional activator VP16 and the mammalian homeodomain-containing protein Oct-l.

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