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Nucleic Acids Res. 2006;34(22):6505-20. Epub 2006 Nov 27.

The natural history of the WRKY-GCM1 zinc fingers and the relationship between transcription factors and transposons.

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National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.


WRKY and GCM1 are metal chelating DNA-binding domains (DBD) which share a four stranded fold. Using sensitive sequence searches, we show that this WRKY-GCM1 fold is also shared by the FLYWCH Zn-finger domain and the DBDs of two classes of Mutator-like element (MULE) transposases. We present evidence that they share a stabilizing core, which suggests a possible origin from a BED finger-like intermediate that was in turn ultimately derived from a C2H2 Zn-finger domain. Through a systematic study of the phyletic pattern, we show that this WRKY-GCM1 superfamily is a widespread eukaryote-specific group of transcription factors (TFs). We identified several new members across diverse eukaryotic lineages, including potential TFs in animals, fungi and Entamoeba. By integrating sequence, structure, gene expression and transcriptional network data, we present evidence that at least two major global regulators belonging to this superfamily in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Rcs1p and Aft2p) have evolved from transposons, and attained the status of transcription regulatory hubs in recent course of ascomycete yeast evolution. In plants, we show that the lineage-specific expansion of WRKY-GCM1 domain proteins acquired functional diversity mainly through expression divergence rather than by protein sequence divergence. We also use the WRKY-GCM1 superfamily as an example to illustrate the importance of transposons in the emergence of new TFs in different lineages.

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