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Nucleic Acids Res. 1994 Jul 11;22(13):2651-7.

The RNA polymerase I transcription factor UBF is a sequence-tolerant HMG-box protein that can recognize structured nucleic acids.

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Biology Department, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63130.


Upstream Binding Factor (UBF) is important for activation of ribosomal RNA transcription and belongs to a family of proteins containing nucleic acid binding domains, termed HMG-boxes, with similarity to High Mobility Group (HMG) chromosomal proteins. Proteins in this family can be sequence-specific or highly sequence-tolerant binding proteins. We show that Xenopus UBF can be classified among the sequence-tolerant class. Methylation interference assays using enhancer DNA probes failed to reveal any critical nucleotides required for UBF binding. Selection by UBF of optimal binding sites among a population of enhancer oligonucleotides with randomized sequences also failed to reveal any consensus sequence. The minor groove specific drugs chromomycin A3, distamycin A and actinomycin D competed against UBF for enhancer binding, suggesting that UBF, like other HMG-box proteins, probably interacts with the minor groove. UBF also shares with other HMG box proteins the ability to bind synthetic cruciform DNA. However, UBF appears different from other HMG-box proteins in that it can bind both RNA (tRNA) and DNA. The sequence-tolerant nature of UBF-nucleic acid interactions may accommodate the rapid evolution of ribosomal RNA gene sequences.

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