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Nucleic Acids Res. 1993 Sep 11;21(18):4348-55.

Dimerization of leucine zippers analyzed by random selection.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


The leucine zipper is a coiled coil that mediates specific dimerization of bZIP DNA-binding domains. A hydrophobic spine involving the conserved leucines runs down the coiled-coil and is thought to stabilize the dimer. We used the method of random selection to further define the primary sequence requirements for homodimer formation and heterodimer formation with Fos. When positions on either side of the hydrophobic spine of GCN4 are diversified to include the corresponding residues of Jun, a large percentage of the resulting sequences form homodimers, and a large percentage form heterodimers with Fos. Basic residues were preferred, but not essential, at position e of zippers which heterodimerize with Fos. When random sequences containing 5 heptad repeat of leucines are subject to a selection for homodimer formation, a diverse set of sequences is isolated. Certain residues are preferred at each position in the heptad repeat, although no essential primary sequence determinants could be identified. No pair of residues not involving the conserved leucines could be identified which strongly promotes homodimerization. These results suggest that factors determining leucine zipper dimerization are complex, with numerous interactions contributing to the association.

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