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Nucleic Acids Res. 2001 Dec 1;29(23):4866-72.

Combinatorial interactions of two amino acids with a single base pair define target site specificity in plant dimeric homeodomain proteins.

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  • 1Cátedra de Biología Celular y Molecular, Facultad de Bioquímica y Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, CC 242 Paraje El Pozo, 3000 Santa Fe, Argentina.


Four groups of plant homeodomain proteins contain a dimerization motif closely linked to the homeodomain. We here show that two sunflower homeodomain proteins, Hahb-4 and HAHR1, which belong to the Hd-Zip I and GL2/Hd-Zip IV groups, respectively, show different binding preferences at a defined position of a pseudopalindromic DNA-binding site used as a target. HAHR1 shows a preference for the sequence 5'-CATT(A/T)AATG-3', rather than 5'-CAAT(A/T)ATTG-3', recognized by Hahb-4. To analyze the molecular basis of this behavior, we have constructed a set of mutants with exchanged residues (Phe-->Ile and Ile-->Phe) at position 47 of the homeodomain, together with chimeric proteins between HAHR1 and Hahb-4. The results obtained indicate that Phe47, but not Ile47, allows binding to 5'-CATT(A/T)AATG-3'. However, the preference for this sequence is determined, in addition, by amino acids located C-terminal to residue 53 of the HAHR1 homeodomain. A double mutant of Hahb-4 (Ile47-->Phe/Ala54-->Thr) shows the same binding behavior as HAHR1, suggesting that combinatorial interactions of amino acid residues at positions 47 and 54 of the homeodomain are involved in establishing the affinity and selectivity of plant dimeric homeodomain proteins with different DNA target sequences.

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