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Mol Cell Biol. 2004 Jan;24(2):809-22.

Transcriptional and DNA binding activity of the Foxp1/2/4 family is modulated by heterotypic and homotypic protein interactions.

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Department of Medicine, Molecular Cardiology Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, 421 Curie Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Foxp1, Foxp2, and Foxp4 are large multidomain transcriptional regulators belonging to the family of winged-helix DNA binding proteins known as the Fox family. Foxp1 and Foxp2 have been shown to act as transcriptional repressors, while regulatory activity of the recently identified Foxp4 has not been determined. Given the importance of this Fox gene subfamily in neural and lung development, we sought to elucidate the mechanisms by which Foxp1, Foxp2, and Foxp4 repress gene transcription. We show that like Foxp1 and Foxp2, Foxp4 represses transcription. Analysis of the N-terminal repression domain in Foxp1, Foxp2, and Foxp4 shows that this region contains two separate and distinct repression subdomains that are highly homologous termed subdomain 1 and subdomain 2. However, subdomain 2 is not functional in Foxp4. Screening for proteins that interact with subdomains 1 and 2 of Foxp2 using yeast two-hybrid analysis revealed that subdomain 2 binds to C-terminal binding protein 1, which can synergistically repress transcription with Foxp1 and Foxp2, but not Foxp4. Subdomain 1 contains a highly conserved leucine zipper similar to that found in N-myc and confers homo- and heterodimerization to the Foxp1/2/4 family members. These interactions are dependent on the conserved leucine zipper motif. Finally, we show that the integrity of this subdomain is essential for DNA binding, making Foxp1, Foxp2, and Foxp4 the first Fox proteins that require dimerization for DNA binding. These data reveal a complex regulatory mechanism underlying Foxp1, Foxp2, and Foxp4 activity, demonstrating that Foxp1, Foxp2, and Foxp4 are the first Fox proteins reported whose activity is regulated by homo- and heterodimerization.

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