Many studies of transcription activation employ fusions of activation domains to DNA binding domains derived from the bacterial repressor LexA and the yeast activator GAL4. Such studies often implicitly assume that DNA binding by the chimeric proteins is equivalent to that of the protein donating the DNA binding moiety. To directly investigate this issue, we compared operator binding by a series of LexA-derivative proteins to operator binding by native LexA, by using both in vivo and in vitro assays. We show that operator binding by many proteins such as LexA-Myc, LexA-Fos, and LexA-Bicoid is severely impaired, while binding of other LexA-derivative proteins, such as those that carry bacterially encoded acidic sequences ("acid blobs"), is not. Our results also show that DNA binding by LexA derivatives that contain the LexA carboxy-terminal dimerization domain (amino acids 88 to 202) is considerably stronger than binding by fusions that lack it and that heterologous dimerization motifs cannot substitute for the LexA88-202 function. These results suggest the need to reevaluate some previous studies of activation that employed LexA derivatives and modifications to recent experimental approaches that use LexA and GAL4 derivatives to detect and study protein-protein interactions.
Eukaryotic transcription activators normally consist of a sequence-specific DNA-binding domain (DBD) and a transcription activation domain (AD). While many sequence patterns and motifs have been defined for DBDs, ADs do not share easily recognizable motifs or structures.
We report herein that the N-terminal domain of yeast valyl-tRNA synthetase can function as an AD when fused to a DNA-binding protein, LexA, and turn on reporter genes with distinct LexA-responsive promoters. The transcriptional activity was mainly attributed to a five-residue peptide, WYDWW, near the C-terminus of the N domain. Remarkably, the pentapeptide per se retained much of the transcriptional activity. Mutations which substituted tryptophan residues for both of the non-tryptophan residues in the pentapeptide (resulting in W5) significantly enhanced its activity (~1.8-fold), while mutations which substituted aromatic residues with alanine residues severely impaired its activity. Accordingly, a much more active peptide, pentatryptophan (W7), was produced, which elicited ~3-fold higher activity than that of the native pentapeptide and the N domain. Further study indicated that W7 mediates transcription activation through interacting with the general transcription factor, TFIIB.
Since W7 shares no sequence homology or features with any known transcription activators, it may represent a novel class of AD.
We previously identified and characterized a lexA gene from Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citri. For this study, we cloned and expressed a lexA homologue from X. axonopodis pv. citri. This gene was designated lexA2, and the previously identified lexA gene was renamed lexA1. The coding region of lexA2 is 606 bp long and shares 59% nucleotide sequence identity with lexA1. Analyses of the deduced amino acid sequence revealed that LexA2 has structures that are characteristic of LexA proteins, including a helix-turn-helix DNA binding domain and conserved amino acid residues required for the autocleavage of LexA. The lexA2 mutant, which was constructed by gene replacement, was 4 orders of magnitude more resistant to the DNA-damaging agent mitomycin C at 0.1 μg/ml and 1 order of magnitude more resistant to another DNA-damaging agent, methylmethane sulfonate at 30 μg/ml, than the wild type. A lexA1 lexA2 double mutant had the same degree of susceptibility to mitomycin C as the lexA1 or lexA2 single mutant but was 1 order of magnitude more resistant to methylmethane sulfonate at 30 μg/ml than the lexA1 or lexA2 single mutant. These results suggest that LexA1 and LexA2 play different roles in regulating the production of methyltransferases that are required for repairing DNA damage caused by methylmethane sulfonate. A mitomycin C treatment also caused LexA2 to undergo autocleavage, as seen with LexA1. The results of electrophoresis mobility shift assays revealed that LexA2 does not bind the lexA1 promoter. It binds to both the lexA2 and recA promoters. However, neither LexA2 nor LexA1 appears to regulate recA expression, as lexA1, lexA2, and lexA1 lexA2 mutants did not become constitutive for recA transcription and RecA production. These results suggest that recA expression in X. axonopodis pv. citri is regulated by mechanisms that have yet to be identified.
The transcription factor LexA in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803 has been shown to regulate genes that are not directly involved in DNA repair but instead in several different metabolic pathways. However, the signal transduction pathways remain largely uncharacterized. The present work gives novel insights into the regulation of LexA in this unicellular cyanobacterium. A combination of Northern and Western blotting, using specific antibodies against the cyanobacterial LexA, was employed to show that this transcription regulator is under posttranscriptional control, in addition to the classical and already-described transcriptional regulation. Moreover, detailed two-dimensional (2D) electrophoresis analyses of the protein revealed that LexA undergoes posttranslational modifications. Finally, a fully segregated LexA::GFP (green fluorescent protein) fusion-modified strain was produced to image LexA's spatial distribution in live cells. The fusion protein retains DNA binding capabilities, and the GFP fluorescence indicates that LexA is localized in the innermost region of the cytoplasm, decorating the DNA in an evenly distributed pattern. The implications of these findings for the overall role of LexA in Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803 are further discussed.
We have shown that the murine c-rel protein can act as a transcriptional transactivator in both yeast and mammalian cells. Fusion proteins generated by linking rel sequences to the DNA-binding domain of the yeast transcriptional activator GAL4 activate transcription from a reporter gene linked in cis to a GAL4 binding site. The full-length mouse c-rel protein (588 amino acids long) is a poor transactivator; however, the C-terminal portion of the protein between amino acid residues 403 to 568 is a potent transcriptional transactivator. Deletion of the N-terminal half of the c-rel protein augments its transactivation function. We propose that c-rel protein has an N-terminal regulatory domain and a C-terminal transactivation domain which together modulate its function as a transcriptional transactivator.
Chromosomal proteins HMG-14, HMG-17, and HMG-1 are among the most abundant, ubiquitous, and evolutionarily conserved nonhistone proteins. Analysis of their structure reveals features which are similar to those of certain transcription factors. The distribution of charged amino acid residues along the polypeptide chains is asymmetric: positive charges are clustered toward the N-terminal region, while negative charges are clustered toward the C-terminal region. The residues in the C-terminal region have the potential to form alpha helices with negatively charged surfaces. The abilities of HMG-14, -17, and -1 to function as transcriptional activators were studied in Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells expressing LexA-HMG fusion proteins (human HMG-14 and -17 and rat HMG-1) which bind to reporter molecules containing the beta-galactosidase gene downstream from a lexA operator. Fusion constructs expressing deletion mutants of HMG-14, -17, and -1 were also tested. Analysis of binding to the lexA operator with in vitro-synthesized fusion proteins shows that there are more sites for HMG-14, -17, and -1 binding than for LexA binding and that only the fusion constructs which contain the C-terminal, acidic domains of HMG-17 bind the lexA operator specifically. None of the LexA-HMG fusion protein constructs elevate the level of beta-galactosidase activity in transfected yeast cells. Thus, although HMG-14, -17, and -1 are structurally similar to acidic transcriptional activators, these chromosomal proteins do not function as activators in this test system.
The eubacterial SOS system is a paradigm of cellular DNA damage and repair, and its activation can contribute to antibiotic resistance.1,2,3 Under normal conditions, LexA represses the transcription of many DNA repair proteins by binding to SOS “boxes” in their operators. Under genotoxic stress, accumulating RecA-ssDNA-ATP complexes activate LexA for autocleavage. To address how LexA recognizes its binding sites, we determined three crystal structures of Escherichia coli LexA in complex with SOS boxes. These are the first structures reported of a LexA-DNA complex. The DNA-binding domains of the LexA dimer interact with the DNA in the classical fashion of a winged helix-turn-helix (wHTH) motif. However, the wings of these two DNA binding domains bind to the same minor groove of the DNA. These wing-wing contacts may explain why the spacing between the two half-sites of E. coli SOS boxes is invariant.
Rpm2p, a protein subunit of yeast mitochondrial RNase P, has another function that is essential in cells lacking the wild-type mitochondrial genome. This function does not require the mitochondrial leader sequence and appears to affect transcription of nuclear genes. Rpm2p expressed as a fusion protein with green fluorescent protein localizes to the nucleus and activates transcription from promoters containing lexA-binding sites when fused to a heterologous DNA binding domain, lexA. The transcriptional activation region of Rpm2p contains two leucine zippers that are required for transcriptional activation and are conserved in the distantly related yeast Candida glabrata. The presence of a mitochondrial leader sequence does not prevent a portion of Rpm2p from locating to the nucleus, and several observations suggest that the nuclear location and transcriptional activation ability of Rpm2p are physiologically significant. The ability of RPM2 alleles to suppress tom40-3, a temperature-sensitive mutant of a component of the mitochondrial import apparatus, correlates with their ability to transactivate the reporter genes with lexA-binding sites. In cells lacking mitochondrial DNA, Rpm2p influences the levels of TOM40, TOM6, TOM20, TOM22, and TOM37 mRNAs, which encode components of the mitochondrial import apparatus, but not that of TOM70 mRNA. It also affects HSP60 and HSP10 mRNAs that encode essential mitochondrial chaperones. Rpm2p also increases the level of Tom40p, as well as Hsp60p, but not Atp2p, suggesting that some, but not all, nucleus-encoded mitochondrial components are affected.
In order to understand gene regulation by glucocorticoids, it is pivotal to know how the major transactivation domain AF1 of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) functions. Located in the N-terminal region of the GR, AF1 is quantitatively important for transcriptional regulation, but only in recent years have we begun to understand how AF1 works. This is in part due to the fact that the recombinant AF1 (rAF1) peptide exists as a random ensemble of conformers. Algorithms that predict structure support the view that AF1 is also not well ordered in the holo-GR, and the properties of the amino acids in AF1 suggest that it is intrinsically disordered. However, it is generally believed that intrinsically disordered sequences of the GR AF1 must achieve one or more ordered conformation(s) to carry out transactivation activity. Based on our previous published work and available literature, we hypothesize that a confluence of effects that operate under physiological conditions cause functionally active conformation(s) to form in AF1. We have shown that when rAF1 is incubated in increasing concentrations of a naturally occurring osmolyte trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), the peptide folds into functionally active conformation(s) that selectively binds several critical coregulatory proteins. Because cells contain various organic osmolytes whose effects may be cumulative, and in light of cell – specific effects of GR AF1 action, we tested whether it can be folded by other natural organic osmolytes representative of three classes: certain amino acids (proline), methylamines (sarcosine), and polyols (sorbitol). The osmolyte-induced folding of rAF1 shows greatly increased affinity for specific binding proteins, including TATA box binding protein (TBP), CREB binding protein (CBP), and steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1). Consistent with theory and published data with other proteins, our results show that different osmolytes have differential effects on rAF1 folding. The cell-specific functions of the GR AF1-and by extension the AF1s of other nuclear hormone receptors – may in part be affected by the presence and concentrations of particular osmolytes within a particular cellular environment.
glucocorticoid receptor; AF1 activation domain; osmolyte; protein folding; coregulatory proteins
The NS-1 gene of the parvovirus minute virus of mice (MVM) (prototype strain, MVMp) was fused in phase with the sequence coding for the DNA-binding domain of the bacterial LexA repressor. The resulting chimeric protein, LexNS-1, was tested for its transcriptional activity by using various target promoters in which multiple LexA operator sequences had been introduced. Under these conditions, NS-1 was shown to stimulate gene expression driven by the modified long terminal repeat promoters (from the retroviruses mouse mammary tumor virus and Rous sarcoma virus) and P38 promoter (from MVMp), indicating that the NS-1 protein is a potent transcriptional activator. It is noteworthy that in the absence of LexA operator-mediated targeting, the genuine mouse mammary tumor virus and Rous sarcoma virus promoters were inhibited by NS-1. Together these data strongly suggest that NS-1 contains an activating region able to induce promoters with which this protein interacts but also to repress transcription from nonrecognized promoters by a squelching mechanism similar to that described for other activators. Deletion mutant analysis led to the identification of an NS-1 domain that exhibited an activating potential comparable to that of the whole polypeptide when fused to the DNA-binding region of LexA. This domain is localized in the carboxy-terminal part of NS-1 and corresponds to one of the two regions previously found to be responsible for toxicity. These results argue for the involvement of the regulatory functions of NS-1 in the cytopathic effect of this parvovirus product.
The Srb10-Srb11 protein kinase of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk)-cyclin pair which has been found associated with the carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II holoenzyme forms. Previous genetic findings implicated the Srb10-Srb11 kinase in transcriptional repression. Here we use synthetic promoters and LexA fusion proteins to test the requirement for Srb10-Srb11 in repression by Ssn6-Tup1, a global corepressor. We show that srb10Δ and srb11Δ mutations reduce repression by DNA-bound LexA-Ssn6 and LexA-Tup1. A point mutation in a conserved subdomain of the kinase similarly reduced repression, indicating that the catalytic activity is required. These findings establish a functional link between Ssn6-Tup1 and the Srb10-Srb11 kinase in vivo. We also explored the relationship between Srb10-Srb11 and CTD kinase I (CTDK-I), another member of the cdk-cyclin family that has been implicated in CTD phosphorylation. We show that mutation of CTK1, encoding the cdk subunit, causes defects in transcriptional repression by LexA-Tup1 and in transcriptional activation. Analysis of the mutant phenotypes and the genetic interactions of srb10Δ and ctk1Δ suggests that the two kinases have related but distinct roles in transcriptional control. These genetic findings, together with previous biochemical evidence, suggest that one mechanism of repression by Ssn6-Tup1 involves functional interaction with RNA polymerase II holoenzyme.
Expression of the cyanobacterial DEAD-box RNA helicase, crhR, is regulated in response to conditions, which elicit reduction of the photosynthetic electron transport chain. A combination of electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), DNA affinity chromatography and mass spectrometry identified that a LexA-related protein binds specifically to the crhR gene. Transcript analysis indicates that lexA and crhR are divergently expressed, with lexA and crhR transcripts accumulating differentially under conditions, which respectively oxidize and reduce the electron transport chain. In addition, expression of the Synechocystis lexA gene is not DNA damage inducible and its amino acid sequence lacks two of three residues required for activity of prototypical LexA proteins, which repress expression of DNA repair genes in a range of prokaryotes. A direct effect of recombinant LexA protein on crhR expression was confirmed from the observation that LexA reduces crhR expression in a linear manner in an in vitro transcription/translation assay. The results indicate that the Synechocystis LexA-related protein functions as a regulator of redox-responsive crhR gene expression, and not DNA damage repair genes.
We used a one-hybrid system to replace precisely the finger II chicken GATA-1 DNA-binding domain with the binding domain of bacterial repressor protein LexA. The LexA DNA-binding domain lacks amino acids that function for transcriptional activation, nuclear localization, or protein dimerization. This allowed us to analyze activities of GATA-1 sequences distinct from DNA binding. We found that strong transcriptional activating sequences that function independently of finger II are present in GATA-1. Sequences including finger I contain an independent nuclear localizing function. Our data are consistent with cooperative binding of two LexA-GATA-1 hybrid proteins on a palindromic operator. The sensitivity of our transcription assay provides the first evidence that GATA-1 can make homotypic interactions in vivo. The ability of a non-DNA-binding form of GATA-1 to activate gene expression by targeting to a bound GATA-1 derivative further supports the notion that GATA-1-GATA-1 interactions may have functional consequences. A coimmunoprecipitation assay was used to demonstrate that GATA-1 multimeric complexes form in solution by protein-protein interaction. The novel ability of GATA-1 to interact homotypically may be important for the formation of higher-order structures among distant regulatory elements that share binding sites for this transcription factor. We also used the system to test the ability of GATA-1 to interact heterotypically with other activators.
Purified fusion proteins made up of a retroviral integrase and a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein have been tested in in vitro assays for their ability to direct integration into specific target sites. To determine whether these fusion proteins can be incorporated into human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and are functional to mediate integration, we used an in trans approach to deliver various integrase-LexA proteins to an integrase-defective virus containing an integrase mutation at aspartate residue 64. Integrase-LexA, integrase-LexA DNA-binding domain, or N- or C-terminally truncated integrase-LexA proteins were fused to the HIV-1 accessory protein, Vpr. Coexpression of the Vpr fusion proteins and an integrase-defective HIV-1 molecular clone by a producer cell line resulted in efficient incorporation of the fusion protein into the integrase-mutated virus. In addition, each of these viruses was infectious and capable of performing integration, as determined by two independent cellular assays that measure reporter gene expression. With the exception of the N-terminally truncated integrase fused to LexA, which was at about 1%, all of the fusion proteins restored integration to a similar level, at 17 to 24% of that of the wild-type virus. The low level observed with the N-terminally truncated integrase fused to LexA is consistent with previous results implying that the N terminus of integrase is involved in multiple steps of the retroviral life cycle. These data indicate that the integrase-fusion proteins retain catalytic function in the integrase-mutated viruses and demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating integrase fusion proteins into HIV-1 for the development of site-directed retroviral vectors.
The product of the LYS14 gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae activates the transcription of at least four genes involved in lysine biosynthesis. Physiological and genetic studies indicate that this activation is dependent on the inducer alpha-aminoadipate semialdehyde, an intermediate of the pathway. The gene LYS14 was sequenced and, from its nucleotide sequence, predicted to encode a 790-amino-acid protein carrying a cysteine-rich DNA-binding motif of the Zn(II)2Cys6 type in its N-terminal portion. Deletion of this N-terminal portion including the cysteine-rich domain resulted in the loss of LYS14 function. To test the function of Lys14 as a transcriptional activator, this protein without its DNA-binding motif was fused to the DNA-binding domain of the Escherichia coli LexA protein. The resulting LexA-Lys14 hybrid protein was capable of activating transcription from a promoter containing a lexA operator, thus confirming the transcriptional activation function of Lys14. Furthermore, evidence that this function, which is dependent on the presence of alpha-aminoadipate semialdehyde, is antagonized by lysine was obtained. Such findings suggest that activation by alpha-aminoadipate semialdehyde and the apparent repression by lysine are related mechanisms. Lysine possibly acts by limiting the supply of the coinducer, alpha-aminoadipate semialdehyde.
Several transcriptional activators, called ‘classical’ because each bears a natural acidic activating region attached to a DNA binding domain, are proteolytically unstable in yeast, and it has been suggested that this instability is required for transcriptional activation [1-3]. Here we test the generality of that proposal by examining a set of activators (called ‘non-classical’) that lack activating regions. These activators (e.g. LexA-Gal11) comprise a LexA DNA binding domain fused to a component of the Mediator, and are believed to insert the latter into the Mediator and recruit it (and, indirectly, other components required for transcription) to a gene bearing LexA sites [4-8]. We find that three, and only three Mediator subunits, all from its tail domain, work as activators when fused to LexA. All three are unstable, and for the case analyzed in detail, stabilization decreases activity. Thus to the extent tested, both classical and non-classical activators work most efficiently when proteolytically unstable.
The nucleotide sequence of the control region and the presumptive N-terminal portion of the uvrD gene of Escherichia coli K-12 has been determined. The 1190 base pairs of DNA examined include the likely coding sequence for the first 258 amino acids of the uvrD protein. The transcription promoter for the uvrD gene was identified upstream of the protein coding region. Synthesis of messenger RNA in vitro from this promoter was inhibited by purified lexA protein. The lexA protein was found to bind downstream from the promoter at a sequence, CTGTATATATACCCAG, which is homologous to other known lexA protein binding sites. In the absence of the lexA protein, approximately half of the messages initiated in vitro at the uvrD promoter terminate after about 60 nucleotides at a sequence which resembles a rho-independent terminator. These results indicate that the uvrD gene is induced during the SOS response, and that the expression of the gene may also be regulated by transcription attenuation.
Mutations in yeast ADA2, ADA3, and GCN5 weaken the activation potential of a subset of acidic activation domains. In this report, we show that their gene products form a heterotrimeric complex in vitro, with ADA2 as the linchpin holding ADA3 and GCN5 together. Further, activation by LexA-ADA3 fusions in vivo are regulated by the levels of ADA2. Combined with a prior observation that LexA-ADA2 fusions are regulated by the levels of ADA3 (N. Silverman, J. Agapite, and L. Guarente, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:11665-11668, 1994), this finding suggests that these proteins also form a complex in cells. ADA3 can be separated into two nonoverlapping domains, an amino-terminal domain and a carboxyl-terminal domain, which do not separately complement the slow-growth phenotype or transcriptional defect of a delta ada3 strain but together supply full complementation. The carboxyl-terminal domain of ADA3 alone suffices for heterotrimeric complex formation in vitro and activation of LexA-ADA2 in vivo. We present a model depicting the ADA complex as a coactivator in which the ADA3 amino-terminal domain mediates an interaction between activation domains and the ADA complex.
The nucleotide sequence of a 2224 bp region of the Escherichia coli chromosome that carries the LexA regulated recN gene has been determined. A region of 1701 nucleotides encoding a polypeptide of 567 amino acids with a predicted molecular weight of 63,599 was identified as the most probable sequence for the recN structural gene. The proposed initiation codon is preceded by a reasonable Shine-Dalgarno sequence and a promoter region containing two 16 bp sequences, separated by 6 bp, that match the consensus sequence (SOS box) for binding LexA protein. DNA fragments containing this putative promoter region are shown to bind LexA in vitro and to have LexA-regulated promoter activity in vivo. The amino acid sequence of RecN predicted from the DNA contains a region that is homologous to highly conserved sequences found in several DNA repair enzymes and other proteins that bind ATP. A sequence of 9 amino acids was found to be homologous to a region of the RecA protein of E. coli postulated to have a role in DNA/nucleotide binding.
The SOS response to DNA damage in E. coli involves at least 43 genes, all under the control of the LexA repressor. Activation of these genes occurs when the LexA repressor cleaves itself, a reaction catalyzed by an active, extended RecA filament formed on DNA. It has been shown that the LexA repressor binds within the deep groove of this nucleoprotein filament, and presumably cleavage occurs in this groove. Bacteriophages, such as, have repressors (cI) that are structural homologs of LexA and also undergo self-cleavage when SOS is induced. It has been puzzling that some mutations in RecA that affect the cleavage of repressors are in the C-terminal domain (CTD) far from the groove where cleavage is thought to occur. In addition, it has been shown that the rate of cleavage of cI by RecA is dependent upon both the substrate on which RecA is polymerized and the ATP analog used. Electron microscopy and three-dimensional reconstructions show that the conformation and dynamics of RecA’s CTD are also modulated by the polynucleotide substrate and ATP analog. Under conditions where the repressor cleavage rates are the highest, cI is coordinated within the groove by contacts with RecA’s CTD. These observations provide a framework for understanding previous genetic and biochemical observations.
Activation of the CYC1 upstream activation site (UAS2) and other Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes encoding respiratory functions requires the products of the regulatory loci HAP2 and HAP3. We present here the DNA sequence of the yeast HAP2 gene and an initial investigation into the function of its product. The DNA sequence indicated that HAP2 encoded a 265-amino-acid protein whose carboxyl third was highly basic. Also found in the sequence was a polyglutamine tract spanning residues 120 to 133. Several experiments described herein suggest that HAP2 encodes a direct activator of transcription. First, a bifunctional HAP2-beta-galactosidase fusion gene was localized to the yeast nucleus. Second, a lexA-HAP2 fusion gene was capable of activating transcription when bound to a lexA operator site. The additional requirement for the HAP3 product in activation is discussed.
Phenotypic heterogeneity may ensure that a small fraction of a population survives environmental perturbations or may result in lysis in a subpopulation, to increase the survival of siblings. Genes involved in DNA repair and population dynamics play key roles in rapid responses to environmental conditions. In Escherichia coli the transcriptional repressor LexA controls a coordinated cellular response to DNA damage designated the SOS response. Expression of LexA regulated genes, e.g. colicin encoding genes, recA, lexA and umuDC, was examined utilizing transcription fusions with the promoterless gfp at the single cell level.
The investigated LexA regulated genes exhibited heterogeneity, as only in a small fraction of the population more intense fluorescence was observed. Unlike recA and lexA, the pore forming and nuclease colicin activity genes as well as umuDC, exhibited no basal level activity. However, in a lexA defective strain high level expression of the gene fusions was observed in the large majority of the cells. All of the investigated genes were expressed in a recA defective strain, albeit at lower levels, revealing expression in the absence of a spontaneous SOS response. In addition, the simultaneous expression of cka, encoding the pore forming colicin K, and lexA, investigated at the single cell level revealed high level expression of only cka in rare individual cells.
LexA regulated genes exhibit phenotypic heterogeneity as high level expression is observed in only a small subpopulation of cells. Heterogenous expression is established primarily by stochastic factors and the binding affinity of LexA to SOS boxes.
Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) is a calcium-responsive transcription factor. We describe here an NFAT-based neural tracing method—CaLexA (calcium-dependent nuclear import of Lex A)—for labeling active neurons in behaving animals. In this system, sustained neural activity induces nuclear import of the chimeric transcription factor LexA-VP16-NFAT, which in turn drives green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter expression only in active neurons. We tested this system in Drosophila and found that volatile sex pheromones excite specific neurons in the olfactory circuit. Furthermore, complex courtship behavior associated with multi-modal sensory inputs activated neurons in the ventral nerve cord. This method harnessing the mechanism of activity-dependent nuclear import of a transcription factor can be used to identify active neurons in specific neuronal population in behaving animals.
Drosophila; olfaction; antennal lobe; pheromone; NFAT; activity dependent; N2A; immediate-early gene
Sufficient knowledge of transcription factor structure and function has accumulated to allow attempts at the rational design of novel transcription factors for the study of gene regulation and potential application in gene therapy. In the present studies, we have systematically evaluated the function of chimeric retinoid receptors generated by fusion with the transactivation domain of VP16 and expression in adenovirus vectors. By varying the location of fusion of the VP16 transactivation domain with the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) or retinoid X receptor (RXR), marked differences in the specificity of gene activation were obtained. Although several chimeric proteins activated both RAR and RXR target genes, fusion of the NT16 transactivation domain to the N terminus of RAR permitted specific activation of reporter genes containing retinoic acid response elements. In contrast, fusion of the VP16 transactivation domain to the C terminus of RXR permitted specific activation of reporter genes containing RXR response elements. When tested for their ability to activate chromosomal targets, the chimera consisting of VP16 linked to the N terminus of PAR was much more active in promoting the differentiation of HL-60 cells and NTera-2 cells than the chimera consisting of VP16 linked to the C terminus of RXR. These observations support the existence of two distinct retinoid signalling pathways predicted on the basis of biochemical and pharmacologic studies and provide direct evidence that the programs of differentiation elicited by retinoic acid in these cells are mediated by a specific subset of binding sites for RAR-RXR heterodimers. VP16-RAR and VP16-RXR fusion proteins should be of further use in dissecting the relative contributions of RARs and RXRs to specific programs of gene expression. Constitutive retinoid receptors may also be considered for use as novel tumor suppressor genes for genetically based treatment of retinoid-responsive cancers.
We have cloned and sequenced the SIN4 gene and determined that SIN4 is identical to TSF3, identified as a negative regulator of GAL1 gene transcription (S. Chen, R.W. West, Jr., S.L. Johnson, H. Gans, and J. Ma, submitted for publication). Yeast strains bearing a sin4 delta null mutation have been constructed and are temperature sensitive for growth and display defects in both negative and positive regulation of transcription. Transcription of the CTS1 gene is reduced in sin4 delta mutants, suggesting that Sin4 functions as a positive transcriptional regulator. Additionally, a Sin4-LexA fusion protein activates transcription from test promoters containing LexA binding sites. The sin4 delta mutant also shows phenotypes common to histone and spt mutants, including suppression of delta insertion mutations in the HIS4 and LYS2 promoters, expression of promoters lacking upstream activation sequence elements, and decreased superhelical density of circular DNA molecules. These results suggest that the sin4 delta mutation may alter the structure of chromatin, and these changes in chromatin structure may affect transcriptional regulation.