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Mol Cell Biol. 1993 Nov;13(11):6866-75.

Transcription of alpha-specific genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: DNA sequence requirements for activity of the coregulator alpha 1.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403.


Transcription activation of alpha-specific genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is regulated by two proteins, MCM1 and alpha 1, which bind to DNA sequences, called P'Q elements, found upstream of alpha-specific genes. Neither MCM1 nor alpha 1 alone binds efficiently to P'Q elements. Together, however, they bind cooperatively in a manner that requires both the P' sequence, which is a weak binding site for MCM1, and the Q sequence, which has been postulated to be the binding site for alpha 1. We analyzed a collection of point mutations in the P'Q element of the STE3 gene to determine the importance of individual base pairs for alpha-specific gene transcription. Within the 10-bp conserved Q sequence, mutations at only three positions strongly affected transcription activation in vivo. These same mutations did not affect the weak binding to P'Q displayed by MCM1 alone. In vitro DNA binding assays showed a direct correlation between the ability of the mutant sequences to form ternary P'Q-MCM1-alpha 1 complexes and the degree to which transcription was activated in vivo. Thus, the ability of alpha 1 and MCM1 to bind cooperatively to P'Q elements is critical for activation of alpha-specific genes. In all natural alpha-specific genes the Q sequence is adjacent to the degenerate side of P'. To test the significance of this geometry, we created several novel juxtapositions of P, P', and Q sequences. When the Q sequence was opposite the degenerate side, the composite QP' element was inactive as a promoter element in vivo and unable to form stable ternary QP'-MCM1-alpha 1 complexes in vitro. We also found that addition of a Q sequence to a strong MCM1 binding site allows the addition of alpha 1 to the complex. This finding, together with the observation that Q-element point mutations affected ternary complex formation but not the weak binding of MCM1 alone, supports the idea that the Q sequence serves as a binding site for alpha 1.

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