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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Mar 5;93(5):2159-64.

Recognition of diverse sequences by class I zinc fingers: asymmetries and indirect effects on specificity in the interaction between CF2II and A+T-rich elements.

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The Biological Laboratories, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The Drosophila CF2II protein, which contains zinc fingers of the Cys2His2 type and recognizes an A+T-rich sequence, behaves in cell culture as an activator of a reporter chloramphenicol acetyltransferase gene. This activity depends on C-terminal but not N-terminal zinc fingers, as does in vitro DNA binding. By site-specific mutagenesis and binding site selection, we define the critical amino acid-base interactions. Mutations of single amino acid residues at the leading edge of the recognition helix are rarely neutral: many result in a slight change in affinity for the ideal DNA target site; some cause major loss of affinity; and others change specificity for as many as two bases in the target site. Compared to zinc fingers that recognize G+C-rich DNA, CF2II fingers appear to bind to A+T-rich DNA in a generally similar manner, but with additional flexibility and amino acid-base interactions. The results illustrate how zinc fingers may be evolving to recognize an unusually diverse set of DNA sequences.

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