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PLoS One. 2014 May 21;9(5):e97633. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097633. eCollection 2014.

A conserved motif in the linker domain of STAT1 transcription factor is required for both recognition and release from high-affinity DNA-binding sites.

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  • 1Klinik für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


Binding to specific palindromic sequences termed gamma-activated sites (GAS) is a hallmark of gene activation by members of the STAT (signal transducer and activator of transcription) family of cytokine-inducible transcription factors. However, the precise molecular mechanisms involved in the signal-dependent finding of target genes by STAT dimers have not yet been very well studied. In this study, we have characterized a sequence motif in the STAT1 linker domain which is highly conserved among the seven human STAT proteins and includes surface-exposed residues in close proximity to the bound DNA. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we have demonstrated that a lysine residue in position 567 of the full-length molecule is required for GAS recognition. The substitution of alanine for this residue completely abolished both binding to high-affinity GAS elements and transcriptional activation of endogenous target genes in cells stimulated with interferon-γ (IFNγ), while the time course of transient nuclear accumulation and tyrosine phosphorylation were virtually unchanged. In contrast, two glutamic acid residues (E559 and E563) on each monomer are important for the dissociation of dimeric STAT1 from DNA and, when mutated to alanine, result in elevated levels of tyrosine-phosphorylated STAT1 as well as prolonged IFNγ-stimulated nuclear accumulation. In conclusion, our data indicate that the kinetics of signal-dependent GAS binding is determined by an array of glutamic acid residues located at the interior surface of the STAT1 dimer. These negatively charged residues appear to align the long axis of the STAT1 dimer in a position perpendicular to the DNA, thereby facilitating the interaction between lysine 567 and the phosphodiester backbone of a bound GAS element, which is a prerequisite for transient gene induction.

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