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Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Jul;20(13):4754-64.

The downstream promoter element DPE appears to be as widely used as the TATA box in Drosophila core promoters.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Center for Molecular Genetics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0347, USA.


The downstream promoter element (DPE) functions cooperatively with the initiator (Inr) for the binding of TFIID in the transcription of core promoters in the absence of a TATA box. We examined the properties of sequences that can function as a DPE as well as the range of promoters that use the DPE as a core promoter element. By using an in vitro transcription assay, we identified 17 new DPE-dependent promoters and found that all possessed identical spacing between the Inr and DPE. Moreover, mutational analysis indicated that the insertion or deletion of a single nucleotide between the Inr and DPE causes a reduction in transcriptional activity and TFIID binding. To explore the range of sequences that can function as a DPE, we constructed and analyzed randomized promoter libraries. These experiments yielded the DPE functional range set, which represents sequences that contribute to or are compatible with DPE function. We then analyzed the DPE functional range set in conjunction with a Drosophila core promoter database that we compiled from 205 promoters with accurately mapped start sites. Somewhat surprisingly, the DPE sequence motif is as common as the TATA box in Drosophila promoters. There is, in addition, a striking adherence of Inr sequences to the Inr consensus in DPE-containing promoters relative to DPE-less promoters. Furthermore, statistical and biochemical analyses indicated that a G nucleotide between the Inr and DPE contributes to transcription from DPE-containing promoters. Thus, these data reveal that the DPE exhibits a strict spacing requirement yet some sequence flexibility and appears to be as widely used as the TATA box in Drosophila.

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