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Nat Commun. 2016 Apr 21;7:11222. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11222.

A SAM oligomerization domain shapes the genomic binding landscape of the LEAFY transcription factor.

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Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire et Végétale, Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS UMR5168, CEA/DRF/BIG, INRA UMR 1417, 17, avenue des Martyrs, 38054 Grenoble, France.
European Molecular Biology Laboratory, 71, avenue des Martyrs, 38042 Grenoble, France.
Institut de Biologie Structurale CEA/DRF, CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, 71, avenue des Martyrs, 38044 Grenoble, France.
Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
Instituto de Hortofruticultura Subtropical y Mediterránea, Universidad de Málaga-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Departamento de Biología Molecular y Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Málaga, 29071 Málaga, Spain.
Umeå Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden.
Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics, Child and Family Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4H4.


Deciphering the mechanisms directing transcription factors (TFs) to specific genome regions is essential to understand and predict transcriptional regulation. TFs recognize short DNA motifs primarily through their DNA-binding domain. Some TFs also possess an oligomerization domain suspected to potentiate DNA binding but for which the genome-wide influence remains poorly understood. Here we focus on the LEAFY transcription factor, a master regulator of flower development in angiosperms. We have determined the crystal structure of its conserved amino-terminal domain, revealing an unanticipated Sterile Alpha Motif oligomerization domain. We show that this domain is essential to LEAFY floral function. Moreover, combined biochemical and genome-wide assays suggest that oligomerization is required for LEAFY to access regions with low-affinity binding sites or closed chromatin. This finding shows that domains that do not directly contact DNA can nevertheless have a profound impact on the DNA binding landscape of a TF.

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