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J Biol Chem. 2004 Nov 12;279(46):48205-13. Epub 2004 Aug 29.

Different mechanisms participate in the R-dependent activity of the R2R3 MYB transcription factor C1.

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  • 1Ohio State Biochemistry Program, Department of Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Plant Biotechnology Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


The R2R3 MYB transcription factor C1 requires the basic helix-loop-helix factor R as an essential co-activator for the transcription of maize anthocyanin genes. In contrast, the R2R3 MYB protein P1 activates a subset of the C1-regulated genes independently of R. Substitution of six amino acids in P1 with the C1 amino acids results in P1(*), whose activity on C1-regulated and P1-regulated genes is R-dependent or R-enhanced, respectively. We have used P1(*) in combination with various promoters to uncover two mechanisms for R function. On synthetic promoters that contain only C1/P1 binding sites, R is an essential co-activator of C1. This function of R is unlikely to simply be the result of an increase in the C1 DNA-binding affinity, since transcriptional activity of a C1 mutant that binds DNA at a higher affinity, comparable with P1, remains R-dependent. The differential transcriptional activity of C1 fusions with the yeast Gal4 DNA-binding domain in yeast and maize cells suggests that part of the function of R is to relieve C1 from a plant-specific inhibitor. A second function of R requires cis-regulatory elements in addition to the C1/P1 DNA-binding sites for R-enhanced transcription of a1. We hypothesize that R functions in this mode by binding or recruiting additional factors to the anthocyanin regulatory element conserved in the promoters of several anthocyanin genes. Together, these findings suggest a model in which combinatorial interactions with co-activators enable R2R3 MYB factors with very similar DNA binding preferences to discriminate between target genes in vivo.

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