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Nucleic Acids Res. 1998 Sep 15;26(18):4128-36.

The MHC class II transactivator (CIITA) requires conserved leucine charged domains for interactions with the conserved W box promoter element.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The class II transactivator CIITA is required for transcriptional activation of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II genes. Aside from an N-terminal acidic transcriptional activation domain, little is known about how this factor functions. Extensive mutagenesis of CIITA was undertaken to identify structural motifs required for function. The ability of mutants to activate a reporter gene under the control of MHC class II conserved W-X-Y or X-Y regulatory elements was determined. Two mutants displayed differential activity between the two promoters, activating transcription with the W-X-Y but not the X-Y elements. All mutants were tested for their ability to interfere with wild-type CIITA activity. Five CIITA mutant constructions were able to down-regulate wild-type CIITA activity. Three of these mutants contained targeted disruptions of potential functional motifs: the acidic activation domain, a putative GTP-binding motif and two leucine charged domains (LCD motifs). The other two contained mutations in regions that do not have homology to described proteins. The characterization of CIITA mutants that are able to discriminate between promoters with or without the W box strongly suggests that CIITA requires such interactions for function. The identification of LCD motifs required for CIITA function brings to light a previously undefined role of these motifs in CIITA function.

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