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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 1998 Sep;62(3):586-96.

Mutational analysis of AREA, a transcriptional activator mediating nitrogen metabolite repression in Aspergillus nidulans and a member of the "streetwise" GATA family of transcription factors.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College School of Medicine at Hammersmith Hospital, London W12 ONN, United Kingdom.


The transcriptional activator AREA is a member of the GATA family of transcription factors and mediates nitrogen metabolite repression in the fungus Aspergillus nidulans. The nutritional versatility of A. nidulans and its amenability to classical and reverse genetic manipulations make the AREA DNA binding domain (DBD) a useful model for analyzing GATA family DBDs, particularly as structures of two AREA-DNA complexes have been determined. The 109 extant mutant forms of the AREA DBD surveyed here constitute one of the highest totals of eukaryotic transcription factor DBD mutants, are discussed in light of the roles of individual residues, and are compared to corresponding mutant sequence changes in other fungal GATA factor DBDs. Other topics include delineation of the DBD using both homology and mutational truncation, use of frameshift reversion to detect regions of tolerance to mutational change, the finding that duplication of the DBD can apparently enhance AREA function, and use of the AREA system to analyze a vertebrate GATA factor DBD. Some major points to emerge from work on the AREA DBD are (i) tolerance to sequence change (with retention of function) is surprisingly great, (ii) mutational changes in a transcription factor can have widely differing, even opposing, effects on expression of different structural genes so that monitoring expression of one or even several structural genes can be insufficient and possibly misleading, and (iii) a mutational change altering local hydrophobic packing and DNA binding target specificity can markedly influence the behavior of mutational changes elsewhere in the DBD.

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