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Oncogene. 1998 Oct 15;17(15):2013-8.

A KRAB-related domain and a novel transcription repression domain in proteins encoded by SSX genes that are disrupted in human sarcomas.

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Department of Cancer Medicine, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Hammersmith campus, London, UK.


SSX genes show extensive nucleotide sequence conservation but little is known of their function. Disruption of SSX1 or SSX2, by chromosome translocation and 'in-frame' fusion to SYT, is a consistent feature of synovial sarcomas. The resulting SYT-SSX1/SSX2 proteins are activators of transcription; transactivation function is located in SYT. Unrearranged SSX1 can repress transcription, and this has been attributed to a putative Krüppel associated box (KRAB) repression domain at the N-terminus. Here we isolated SSX-KRAB domains to specifically measure repression activity, using a previously characterized KOX1-KRAB domain as a control. In our repressor assay SSX1- and SSX2-KRAB domains down-modulated the transactivation of a reporter gene by threefold, compared with 83-fold repression achieved by KOX1-KRAB in the assay. Yeast two-hybrid analysis showed that SSX1-KRAB, unlike KOX1-KRAB, fails to interact with the KRAB co-repressor TIF1beta. These results raise questions about the evolutionary and functional relationship of SSX-KRAB and typical KRAB domains of Krüppel zinc finger genes. We found that full-length SSX1 showed potent (74-fold) repression in our repressor assay, indicating the existence of a repression domain distinct from SSX-KRAB. By assaying deletion constructs of SSX1 we localized repression activity to 33 amino acids at the C-terminus. This novel domain is conserved between SSX family members, and, unlike the KRAB-related domain, is retained on fusion with SYT. This has important implications in understanding the mechanism by which the SYT-SSX fusion protein could contribute to neoplasia.

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