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Nucleic Acids Res. 1991 Nov 25;19(22):6269-76.

Two B cell factors bind the HLA-DRA X box region and recognize different subsets of HLA class II promoters.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322.


The class II genes of the human Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) encode three isotypes of alpha/beta heterodimeric proteins, HLA-DR, -DQ, and -DP, which are responsible for presenting processed antigens to T helper lymphocytes. These MHC class II genes are expressed in a coordinate manner. The promoter regions of all MHC class II genes share a set of highly conserved elements that mediate different levels of tissue-specific and inducible transcription. One element, the X box, appears to be the major positive element in B cell-specific expression, and nuclear protein binding studies have subdivided this region into the X1 and X2 boxes. Regulatory Factor X (RFX) binds to the X1 box whereas several other factors have been described that bind to the X2 box. In this report, we further characterize the X1 binding protein RFX and show that RFX binds poorly to beta chain gene promoters. In particular, RFX does not bind to the DRB gene, which is expressed at the highest levels of all beta chain genes. In addition, we have identified an X2 box binding activity in human B cell extracts that binds with high affinity to the HLA-DRA promoter. This X2 binding protein, X2BP, binds to a different subset of class II promoters than does RFX. These findings suggest that coordinate regulation of class II expression may involve different combinations or arrangements of transcriptional elements and factors instead of a common set.

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