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Mol Cell Biol. 1996 Apr;16(4):1734-45.

Pbx modulation of Hox homeodomain amino-terminal arms establishes different DNA-binding specificities across the Hox locus.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Stanford University, California 94305, USA.


Pbx cofactors are implicated to play important roles in modulating the DNA-binding properties of heterologous homeodomain proteins, including class I Hox proteins. To assess how Pbx proteins influence Hox DNA-binding specificity, we used a binding-site selection approach to determine high-affinity target sites recognized by various Pbx-Hox homeoprotein complexes. Pbx-Hox heterodimers preferred to bind a bipartite sequence 5'-ATGATTNATNN-3' consisting of two adjacent half sites in which the Pbx component of the heterodimer contacted the 5' half (ATGAT) and the Hox component contacted the more variable 3' half (TNATNN). Binding sites matching the consensus were also obtained for Pbx1 complexed with HoxA10, which lacks a hexapeptide but requires a conserved tryptophan-containing motif for cooperativity with Pbx. Interactions with Pbx were found to play an essential role in modulating Hox homeodomain amino-terminal arm contact with DNA in the core of the Hox half site such that heterodimers of different compositions could distinguish single nucleotide alterations in the Hox half site both in vitro and in cellular assays measuring transactivation. When complexed with Pbx, Hox proteins B1 through B9 and A10 showed stepwise differences in their preferences for nucleotides in the Hox half site core (TTAT to TGAT, 5' to 3') that correlated with the locations of their respective genes in the Hox cluster. These observations demonstrate previously undetected DNA-binding specificity for the amino-terminal arm of the Hox homeodomain and suggest that different binding activities of Pbx-Hox complexes are at least part of the position-specific activities of the Hox genes.

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