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Cell. 1992 Jan 10;68(1):133-42.

A molecular mechanism for combinatorial control in yeast: MCM1 protein sets the spacing and orientation of the homeodomains of an alpha 2 dimer.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco 94143.


DNA recognition sequences for dimeric proteins typically contain two types of information. The first is the DNA sequence of each half-site, and the second is the arrangement of these half-sites. We show that dimers of the yeast homeodomain protein alpha 2, although able to read the first type of information, lack the ability to assess the second type. Rather, alpha 2 dimers bind with equal affinity to artificial operators in which the two half-sites are arrayed as inverted repeats, as direct repeats, or as everted (inside-out) repeats. We show that a second protein-MCM1-sets the exact spacing and orientation of the homeodomains in the alpha 2 dimer so that they accommodate only the geometry of the naturally occurring operators. These experiments show directly how the target specificity of a homeodomain protein is raised by an auxiliary protein, allowing it to distinguish the biologically correct operators from closely related sequences in the cell.

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