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Development. 1996 Sep;122(9):2639-50.

Cooperative interactions between paired domain and homeodomain.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The Pax proteins are a family of transcriptional regulators involved in many developmental processes in all higher eukaryotes. They are characterized by the presence of a paired domain (PD), a bipartite DNA binding domain composed of two helix-turn-helix (HTH) motifs,the PAI and RED domains. The PD is also often associated with a homeodomain (HD) which is itself able to form homo- and hetero-dimers on DNA. Many of these proteins therefore contain three HTH motifs each able to recognize DNA. However, all PDs recognize highly related DNA sequences, and most HDs also recognize almost identical sites. We show here that different Pax proteins use multiple combinations of their HTHs to recognize several types of target sites. For instance, the Drosophila Paired protein can bind, in vitro, exclusively through its PAI domain, or through a dimer of its HD, or through cooperative interaction between PAI domain and HD. However, prd function in vivo requires the synergistic action of both the PAI domain and the HD. Pax proteins with only a PD appear to require both PAI and RED domains, while a Pax-6 isoform and a new Pax protein, Lune, may rely on the RED domain and HD. We propose a model by which Pax proteins recognize different target genes in vivo through various combinations of their DNA binding domains, thus expanding their recognition repertoire.

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