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J Cell Physiol. 2001 Mar;186(3):315-28.

Coevolution of HMG domains and homeodomains and the generation of transcriptional regulation by Sox/POU complexes.

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Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.


The highly conserved homeodomains and HMG domains are components of a large number of proteins that play a role in the transcriptional regulation of gene expression during embryogenesis. Both the HMG domain and the homeodomain serve as interfaces for factor interactions with DNA, as well as with other proteins, and it is likely that the high degree of structural and sequence conservation within these domains reflects the conservation of basic aspects of these interactions. Classical HMG domain proteins have an ancient origin, being found in all eukaryotes, and are thought to have given rise to the metazoan-specific class of HMG domain proteins called the Sox proteins. Similarly, the metazoan-specific POU domain proteins are thought to have arisen from genes encoding ancestral homeodomain proteins. In this review, we summarize several examples of different HMG-homeodomain interactions that illustrate not only the ancient origin of each of these protein families, but also their relationship to each other, and discuss how coevolution of HMG and homeodomains may have lead to creation of the specialized Sox/POU protein complexes. Using the FGF-4 gene as an example, we also speculate on how coevolution of regulatory Sox/POU target DNA sequences may have occurred, and how the summation of these changes may have lead to the emergence of new developmental pathways.

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