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Curr Biol. 1998 Apr 9;8(8):452-8.

Evidence for two modes of cooperative DNA binding in vivo that do not involve direct protein-protein interactions.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1096, USA.



The promoter regions of most eukaryotic genes contain binding sites for more than one transcriptional activator and these activators often bind cooperatively to promoters. The most common type of cooperativity is supported by direct protein-protein interactions. Recent studies have shown that proteins that do not specifically interact with one another can bind cooperatively to chromatin in vitro. probably by the localized destabilization of nucleosome structure by one factor, facilitating binding of another to a nearby site. This mechanism does not require that the transcription factors have activation domains. We have examined whether this phenomenon occurs in vivo.


Unrelated non-interacting proteins can bind DNA cooperatively in yeast cells; this cooperative binding can contribute significantly to transcriptional activation, does not require that both factors have activation domains and is only operative over relatively short distances. In addition to this 'short-range' mechanism, unrelated non-interacting proteins can bind cooperatively to sites separated by hundreds of base pairs, so long as both have potent activation domains.


Cooperative binding of transcription factors in vivo can occur by several mechanisms, some of which do not require direct protein-protein interactions and which cannot be detected in vitro using naked DNA templates. These findings must be taken into account when evaluating mechanisms for synergistic transcriptional activation.

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