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EMBO J. 1992 Nov;11(11):4059-72.

Differential DNA sequence recognition is a determinant of specificity in homeotic gene action.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.


The homeotic genes of Drosophila encode transcriptional regulatory proteins that specify distinct segment identities. Previous studies have implicated the homeodomain as a major determinant of biological specificity within these proteins, but have not established the physical basis of this specificity. We show here that the homeodomains encoded by the Ultrabithorax and Deformed homeotic genes bind optimally to distinct DNA sequences and have mapped the determinants responsible for differential recognition. We further show that relative transactivation by these two proteins in a simple in vivo system can differ by nearly two orders of magnitude. Such differences in DNA sequence recognition and target activation provide a biochemical basis for at least part of the biological specificity of homeotic gene action.

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