Determinants of the DNA-Binding Specificity of the Avian Homeodomain Protein, AKR

Tejada, Max L.; Jia, Zongchao; May, Donna; Deeley, Roger G.
October 1999
DNA & Cell Biology;Oct99, Vol. 18 Issue 10, p791
Academic Journal
AKR (Avian Knotted-Related) was the first example of a vertebrate homeodomain protein with a highly divergent Ile residue at position 50 of the DNA-recognition helix. The protein was cloned from a liver cDNA expression library of a day-9 chick embryo by virtue of its ability to bind to the F site in the proximal promoter of the avian apoVLDLII gene. Expression of the apoVLDLII gene is completely estrogen dependent, and mutation or deletion of the F site decreases estrogen inducibility 5- to 10-fold. Subsequent data indicated that AKR is capable of repressing the hormone responsiveness of the apoVLDLII promoter, specifically through binding to F. Involvement of the F site in the hormone-dependent activation of apoVLDLII gene expression, as well as AKR-mediated repression, strongly suggests that both positive and negative regulatory factors interact with this site. Although several mammalian proteins have now been isolated whose homeodomains share many of the structural features of AKR, including the Ile at position 50, little is known of their functions in vivo or the identities of the genes they regulate. Consequently, the elements through which they exert their effects and the structural determinants of their binding specificities remain largely uncharacterized. In this study, we defined the sequence specificity of binding by AKR using polymerase chain reaction-assisted optimal site selection and determined the affinity with which the protein binds to both the optimized site and the F site. Additionally, we generated a three-dimensional model of the AKR homeodomain binding to its optimized site and probed the validity of the model by examining the consequences of mutating amino acid residues in recognition helix 3 and the N-terminal arm on the binding specificity of the homeodomain. Finally, we present evidence that the F site itself may act as an estrogen response element (ERE) when in the vicinity of imperfect or canonical EREs and that AKR can repress hormone inducibility mediated via this site.


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