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Nature. 1994 Sep 8;371(6493):175-9.

An HMG-like protein that can switch a transcriptional activator to a repressor.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.


One protein can activate some genes and repress others in the same cell. The Drosophila protein Dorsal (which, like the human protein NF-kappa B3, is a member of the Rel family of transcriptional activators) activates the twist gene and represses the zen gene in the ventral region of early embryos. Here we describe a Drosophila HMG1 protein, called DSP1 (dorsal switch protein), that converts Dorsal and NF-kappa B from transcriptional activators to repressors. This effect requires a sequence termed a negative regulatory element (NRE), found adjacent to Dorsal-binding sites in the zen promoter and adjacent to the NF-kappa B-binding site in the human interferon-beta (IFN-beta) enhancer. Previous studies have shown that another type of HMG protein, HMG I(Y), can stimulate NF-kappa B activity. Thus, the HMG-like proteins DSP1 and HMG I(Y) can determine whether a specific regulator functions as an activator or a repressor of transcription.

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