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J Biol Chem. 2005 Jun 10;280(23):21779-84. Epub 2005 Apr 11.

Mechanism of transcription factor recruitment by acidic activators.

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  • 1Department of Life Sciences, Södertörns Högskola, S-141 89 Huddinge, Sweden. monica.ferreira@sh.se


Many transcriptional activators are intrinsically unstructured yet display unique, defined conformations when bound to target proteins. Target-induced folding provides a mechanism by which activators could form specific interactions with an array of structurally unrelated target proteins. Evidence for such a binding mechanism has been reported previously in the context of the interaction between the cancer-related c-Myc protein and the TATA-binding protein, which can be modeled as a two-step process in which a rapidly forming, low affinity complex slowly converts to a more stable form, consistent with a coupled binding and folding reaction. To test the generality of the target-induced folding model, we investigated the binding of two widely studied acidic activators, Gal4 and VP16, to a set of target proteins, including TATA-binding protein and the Swi1 and Snf5 subunits of the Swi/Snf chromatin remodeling complex. Using surface plasmon resonance, we show that these activator-target combinations also display bi-phasic kinetics suggesting two distinct steps. A fast initial binding phase that is inhibited by high ionic strength is followed by a slow phase that is favored by increased temperature. In all cases, overall affinity increases with temperature and, in most cases, with increased ionic strength. These results are consistent with a general mechanism for recruitment of transcriptional components to promoters by naturally occurring acidic activators, by which the initial contact is mediated predominantly through electrostatic interactions, whereas subsequent target-induced folding of the activator results in a stable complex.

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