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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 26;95(11):6228-33.

A role for heterodimerization in nuclear localization of a homeodomain protein.

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Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RB, United Kingdom.


The A mating type genes of the mushroom Coprinus cinereus encode two families of dissimilar homeodomain proteins (HD1 and HD2). The proteins heterodimerize when mating cells fuse to generate a transcriptional regulator that promotes expression of genes required for early steps in sexual development. In previous work we showed that heterodimerization brings together different functional domains of the HD1 and HD2 proteins; a potential activation domain at the C terminus of the HD1 protein and an essential HD2 DNA-binding motif. Two predicted nuclear localization signals (NLS) are present in the HD1 protein but none are in the HD2 protein. We deleted each NLS separately from an HD1 protein and showed that one (NLS1) is essential for normal heterodimer function. Fusion of the NLS sequences to the C terminus of an HD2 protein compensated for their deletion from the HD1 protein partner and permitted the two modified proteins to form a functional transcriptional regulator. The nuclear targeting properties of the A protein NLS sequences were demonstrated by fusing the region that encodes them to the bacterial uidA (beta-glucuronidase) gene and showing that beta-glucuronidase expression localized to the nuclei of onion epidermal cells. These observations lead to the proposal that heterodimerization regulates entry of the active transcription factor complex to the nucleus.

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