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Science. 1988 Jun 24;240(4860):1759-64.

The leucine zipper: a hypothetical structure common to a new class of DNA binding proteins.

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Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Baltimore, MD 21210.


A 30-amino-acid segment of C/EBP, a newly discovered enhancer binding protein, shares notable sequence similarity with a segment of the cellular Myc transforming protein. Display of these respective amino acid sequences on an idealized alpha helix revealed a periodic repetition of leucine residues at every seventh position over a distance covering eight helical turns. The periodic array of at least four leucines was also noted in the sequences of the Fos and Jun transforming proteins, as well as that of the yeast gene regulatory protein, GCN4. The polypeptide segments containing these periodic arrays of leucine residues are proposed to exist in an alpha-helical conformation, and the leucine side chains extending from one alpha helix interdigitate with those displayed from a similar alpha helix of a second polypeptide, facilitating dimerization. This hypothetical structure is referred to as the "leucine zipper," and it may represent a characteristic property of a new category of DNA binding proteins.

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