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Nucleic Acids Res. 1996 Jun 15;24(12):2288-94.

Pbx-1 Hox heterodimers bind DNA on inseparable half-sites that permit intrinsic DNA binding specificity of the Hox partner at nucleotides 3' to a TAAT motif.

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Department of Pathology, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Heterodimers between the Pbx/Exd and Hox/HOM-C classes of homeodomain proteins bind regulatory elements in tissue-specific and developmentally regulated genes. In this work, we characterize the half-site bound by both Pbx1 and Hox proteins on a prototypic element (TGATTAAT) and determine how the orientation of the Hox protein contributes to the DNA binding specificity of Pbx-Hox heterodimers. We demonstrate that the Hox protein binds the 3' TAAT sequence as its recognition core and exhibits sequence-specific binding at positions 3' to the TAAT core. Unfavored sequences at this position, such as two cytosines, abrogate binding to the element. The upstream Pbx1 core sequence, TGAT, must immediately juxtapose the Hox core. This geometry maintains the preference of Hox/HOM-C proteins for a T base at position -1, as T represents the fourth position of the Pbx1 core, and suggests that this T base is bound by both Pbx1 and Hox proteins, Pbx1 binding in the major grove and the Hox protein binding in the minor grove. Pbx1 also exhibits base selectivity 5' to its TGAT recognition sequence.

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