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Mol Cell. 2002 Nov;10(5):1097-105.

Crystal structure of PU.1/IRF-4/DNA ternary complex.

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  • 1Structural Biology Program, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The Ets and IRF transcription factor families contain structurally divergent members, PU.1, Spi-B and IRF-4 (Pip), IRF-8 (ICSBP), respectively, which have evolved to cooperatively assemble on composite DNA elements and regulate gene expression in the immune system. Whereas PU.1 recruits IRF-4 or IRF-8 to DNA, it exhibits an anticooperative interaction with IRF-1 and IRF-2. We report here the structure of the ternary complex formed with the DNA binding domains of PU.1 and IRF-4 on a composite DNA element. The DNA in the complex contorts into an unusual S shape that juxtaposes PU.1 and IRF-4 for selective electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions across the central minor groove. Together, the protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions provide insights into the stereochemical basis of cooperativity and anti-cooperativity between Ets and IRF factors.

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