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Genes Dev. 1993 Jul;7(7B):1411-22.

Determinants for selective RAR and TR recognition of direct repeat HREs.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037.


Recently, we have shown that receptors for vitamin D3 (VDR), thyroid hormone (TR), and retinoic acid (RAR) activate preferentially through direct repeats (DRs) spaced by 3, 4, and 5 nucleotides, respectively. In addition, the RAR can activate weakly through DRs spaced by 2 nucleotides. A common feature of RAR, TR, and VDR is their ability to heterodimerize with the retinoid X receptor (RXR) through their ligand-binding domains (LBDs) to form high-affinity DNA-binding complexes that are specific for appropriately spaced repeats. In this paper we demonstrate that selective binding of RAR-RXR and TR-RXR heterodimers to their cognate DRs is a consequence of a novel cooperative dimer interaction within the DNA-binding domains (DBDs). Accordingly, a region in the first zinc finger of the TR and RAR DBDs interacts with the second zinc finger in the RXR DBD to promote selective DNA-binding to DRs spaced by 4 and 5 nucleotides, respectively. The resulting polarity established by this interaction places RXR in the 5' position of the direct repeats. These data provide a mechanism for selective receptor recognition of a restricted set of target sequences in DR DNA and explains the structural basis for physiological specificity.

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