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RNA. 1997 Dec;3(12):1421-33.

The Pumilio protein binds RNA through a conserved domain that defines a new class of RNA-binding proteins.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


Translation of hunchback(mat) (hb[mat]) mRNA must be repressed in the posterior of the pre-blastoderm Drosophila embryo to permit formation of abdominal segments. This translational repression requires two copies of the Nanos Response Element (NRE), a 16-nt sequence in the hb[mat] 3' untranslated region. Translational repression also requires the action of two proteins: Pumilio (PUM), a sequence-specific RNA-binding protein; and Nanos, a protein that determines the location of repression. Binding of PUM to the NRE is thought to target hb(mat) mRNA for repression. Here, we show the RNA-binding domain of PUM to be an evolutionarily conserved, 334-amino acid region at the carboxy-terminus of the approximately 158-kDa PUM protein. This contiguous region of PUM retains the RNA-binding specificity of full-length PUM protein. Proteins with sequences homologous to the PUM RNA-binding domain are found in animals, plants, and fungi. The high degree of sequence conservation of the PUM RNA-binding domain in other far-flung species suggests that the domain is an ancient protein motif, and we show that conservation of sequence reflects conservation of function: that is, the homologous region from a human protein binds RNA with sequence specificity related to but distinct from Drosophila PUM.

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