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1.  Fused protein domains inhibit DNA binding by LexA. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1992;12(7):3006-3014.
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.
PMCID: PMC364514  PMID: 1620111
2.  Identification and Characterization of a Second lexA Gene of Xanthomonas axonopodis Pathovar citri 
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.
PMCID: PMC1169025  PMID: 16000766
3.  Assessment of the transcriptional activation potential of the HMG chromosomal proteins. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1991;11(9):4483-4489.
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.
PMCID: PMC361317  PMID: 1908554
4.  vRel is an inactive member of the Rel family of transcriptional activating proteins. 
Journal of Virology  1991;65(6):3122-3130.
The vRel oncoprotein is member of a family of related proteins that also includes cRel, NF-kappa B, and Dorsal. We investigated the transcriptional regulatory properties of several Rel proteins in cotransfection assays with chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEF). Retroviral vectors expressing hybrid proteins that contain the DNA-binding domain of LexA fused to portions of the viral oncoprotein vRel or chicken, mouse, human, or Drosophila melanogaster (Dorsal) cRel proteins were cotransfected with a reporter plasmid that contains the DNA sequence recognized by LexA, a promoter, and the assayable gene for chloramphenicol acetyltransferase. In transient assays, a LexA-vRel protein did not activate transcription in CEF. Full-length chicken cRel, mouse cRel, and Dorsal fusion proteins all activated transcription weakly; however, deletion of N-terminal Rel sequences from each of these proto-oncogene encoded proteins resulted in strong activation by LexA fusion proteins containing only C-terminal sequences. Inhibition of the C-terminal chicken cRel gene activation domain by N-terminal sequences was seen in CEF and mouse and monkey fibroblasts. These results show that cRel proteins from different species have the same general organization: an N-terminal inhibitory domain and a C-terminal activation domain. Sequence comparison suggests that the inhibitory domain is conserved but the activation domain is species specific. In contrast, vRel lacks a strong C-terminal gene activation function, since a LexA fusion protein containing C-terminal vRel sequences alone only weakly activated transcription. In addition, the wild-type vRel protein (lacking LexA sequences) repressed transcription from reporter plasmids containing NF-kappa B target sequences; nontransforming vRel mutants did not repress transcription from these plasmids. Our results suggest that vRel transforms cells by interfering with transcriptional activation by cellular Rel proteins.
PMCID: PMC240968  PMID: 1903456
5.  Functional Interaction of the Bovine Papillomavirus E2 Transactivation Domain with TFIIB 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(2):1013-1019.
Induction of gene expression by the papillomavirus E2 protein requires its ∼220-amino-acid amino-terminal transactivation domain (TAD) to interact with cellular factors that lead to formation of an activated RNA polymerase complex. These interaction partners have yet to be identified and characterized. The E2 protein localizes the transcription complex to the target promoter through its carboxy-terminal sequence-specific DNA binding domain. This domain has been reported to bind the basal transcription factors TATA-binding protein and TFIIB. We present evidence establishing a direct interaction between amino acids 74 to 134 of the E2 TAD and TFIIB. Within this region, the E2 point mutant N127Y was partially defective and W99C was completely defective for TFIIB binding in vitro, and these mutants displayed reduced or no transcriptional activity, respectively, upon transfection into C33A cells. Overexpression of TFIIB specifically restored transactivation by N127Y to close to wild-type levels, while W99C remained inactive. To further demonstrate the functional interaction of TFIIB with the wild-type E2 TAD, this region was fused to a bacterial DNA binding domain (LexA:E2:1-216). Upon transfection with increasing amounts of LexA:E2:1-216, there was reduction of its transcriptional activity, a phenomenon thought to result from titration of limiting factors, or squelching. Squelching of LexA:E2:1-216, or the wild-type E2 activator, was partially relieved by overexpression of TFIIB. We conclude that a specific region of the E2 TAD functionally interacts with TFIIB.
PMCID: PMC124572  PMID: 9444994
6.  Identification of the Domains of UreR, an AraC-Like Transcriptional Regulator of the Urease Gene Cluster in Proteus mirabilis 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(15):4526-4535.
Proteus mirabilis urease catalyzes the hydrolysis of urea to CO2 and NH3, resulting in urinary stone formation in individuals with complicated urinary tract infections. UreR, a member of the AraC family, activates transcription of the genes encoding urease enzyme subunits and accessory proteins, ureDABCEFG, as well as its own transcription in the presence of urea. Based on sequence homology with AraC, we hypothesized that UreR contains both a dimerization domain and a DNA-binding domain. A translational fusion of the leucine zipper dimerization domain (amino acids 302 to 350) of C/EBP and the C-terminal half of UreR (amino acids 164 to 293) activated transcription from the ureD promoter (pureD) and bound to a 60-bp fragment containing pureD, as analyzed by gel shift. These results were consistent with the DNA-binding specificity residing in the C-terminal half of UreR and dimerization being required for activity. To localize the dimerization domain of UreR, a translational fusion of the DNA-binding domain of the LexA repressor (amino acids 1 to 87) and the N-terminal half of UreR (amino acids 1 to 182) was constructed and found to repress transcription from psulA-lacZ (sulA is repressed by LexA) and bind to the sulA operator site, as analyzed by gel shift. Since LexA binds this site only as a dimer, the UreR1–182-LexA1–87 fusion also must dimerize to bind psulA. Indeed, purified UreR-Myc-His eluted from a gel filtration column as a dimer. Therefore, we conclude that the dimerization domain of UreR is located within the N-terminal half of UreR. UreR contains three leucines that mimic the leucines that contribute to dimerization of AraC. Mutagenesis of Leu147, Leu148, or L158 alone did not significantly affect UreR function. In contrast, mutagenesis of both Leu147 and Leu148 or all three Leu residues resulted in a 85 or 94% decrease, respectively, in UreR function in the presence of urea (P < 0.001). On the contrary, His102 and His175 mutations of UreR resulted in constitutive induction in the absence of urea. We conclude that a dimerization domain resides in the N-terminal half of the polypeptide, that Leu residues may contribute to this function, and that sequences within the C-terminal half of UreR are responsible for DNA binding to the urease promoter regions. Selected His residues also contribute significantly to UreR function.
PMCID: PMC95347  PMID: 11443087
7.  Isolation and characterization of noncleavable (Ind-) mutants of the LexA repressor of Escherichia coli K-12. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1988;170(5):2163-2173.
The LexA repressor of Escherichia coli represses a set of genes that are expressed in the response to DNA damage. After inducing treatments, the repressor is inactivated in vivo by a specific cleavage reaction which requires an activated form of RecA protein. In vitro, specific cleavage requires activated RecA at neutral pH and proceeds spontaneously at alkaline pH. We have isolated and characterized a set of lexA mutants that are deficient in in vivo RecA-mediated cleavage but retain significant repressor function. Forty-six independent mutants, generated by hydroxylamine and formic acid mutagenesis, were isolated by a screen involving the use of operon fusions. DNA sequence analysis identified 20 different mutations. In a recA mutant, all but four of the mutant proteins functioned as repressor as well as wild-type LexA. In a strain carrying a constitutively active recA allele, recA730, all the mutant proteins repressed a sulA::lacZ fusion more efficiently than the wild-type repressor, presumably because they were cleaved poorly or not at all by the activated RecA protein. These 20 mutations resulted in amino acid substitutions in 12 positions, most of which are conserved between LexA and four other cleavable proteins. All the mutations were located in the hinge region or C-terminal domain of the protein, portions of LexA previously implicated in the specific cleavage reactions. Furthermore, these mutations were clustered in three regions, around the cleavage site (Ala-84-Gly-85) and in blocks of conserved amino acids around two residues, Ser-119 and Lys-156, which are believed essential for the cleavage reactions. These three regions of the protein thus appear to play important roles in the cleavage reaction.
PMCID: PMC211102  PMID: 2834329
8.  Evidence that complex formation by Bas1p and Bas2p (Pho2p) unmasks the activation function of Bas1p in an adenine-repressible step of ADE gene transcription. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(6):3272-3283.
Bas1p and Bas2p (Pho2p) are Myb-related and homeodomain DNA binding proteins, respectively, required for transcription of adenine biosynthetic genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The repression of ADE genes in adenine-replete cells involves down-regulation of the functions of one or both of these activator proteins. A LexA-Bas2p fusion protein was found to activate transcription from a lexAop-lacZ reporter independently of both BAS1 function and the adenine levels in the medium. In contrast, a LexA-Bas1p fusion activated the lexAop reporter in a BAS2-dependent and adenine-regulated fashion. The DNA binding activity of Bas2p was not needed for its ability to support activation of the lexAop reporter by LexA-Bas1p, indicating that LexA-Bas1p recruits Bas2p to this promoter. The activation functions of both authentic Bas1p and LexA-Bas1p were stimulated under adenine-repressing conditions by overexpression of Bas2p, suggesting that complex formation by these proteins is inhibited in adenine-replete cells. Replacement of Asp-617 with Asn in Bas1p or LexA-Bas1p allowed either protein to activate transcription under repressing conditions in a manner fully dependent on Bas2p, suggesting that this mutation reduces the negative effect of adenine on complex formation by Bas1p and Bas2p. Deletions of N-terminal and C-terminal segments from the Bas1p moiety of LexA-Bas1p allowed high-level activation by the truncated proteins independently of Bas2p and adenine levels in the medium. From these results we propose that complex formation between Bas1p and Bas2p unmasks a latent activation function in Bas1p as a critical adenine-regulated step in transcription of the ADE genes.
PMCID: PMC232180  PMID: 9154826
9.  Functional domains of Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen EBNA-1. 
Journal of Virology  1991;65(3):1466-1478.
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded latency product EBNA-1 is functionally pleiotropic, being required for replication of the episomal form of the EBV genome and having a role in the regulation of latency transcription. EBNA-1 is a direct DNA-binding protein, and both replication and transactivation are dependent on the interaction of EBNA-1 with its cognate DNA recognition sequences. To better understand EBNA-1 function, we have further characterized the DNA-binding domain of EBNA-1 and have examined the contributions of other domains of the protein to EBNA-1 transactivation activity. A Bal31 deletional analysis of the carboxy-terminal region of EBNA-1 identified a core DNA-binding domain located between amino acids 493 and 584. Column chromatographic, sedimentation, and cross-linking studies indicated that EBNA-1 exists in solution as a dimer. Mobility retardation assays using in vitro-translated variants of EBNA-1 showed that the active DNA-binding form of EBNA-1 is also a dimer. In short-term cotransfections, a pFRTK-CAT target containing EBNA-1-binding sites from the EBV origin of plasmid replication, ori-P, was transactivated by a carboxy-terminal EBNA-1 construction (amino acids 450 to 641) that also carried a c-myc nuclear localization signal. These reconstruction experiments demonstrated that a transactivation domain exists within the carboxy-terminal region of EBNA-1, that transactivation is more efficient when a nuclear localization signal is present, and that the natural karyophilic signal lies outside of the carboxy-terminal 191 amino acids. To identify the EBNA-1 nuclear localization signal, small oligonucleotides representing EBNA-1 sequences that encode clusters of basic peptides were transferred into two different vectors expressing cytoplasmic proteins (pyruvate kinase and herpes simplex virus delta IE175 protein) and the cellular locations of the fusion constructions were determined by immunofluorescence staining of transfected cells. In this way we identified a functional nuclear localization signal, Leu-Lys-Arg-Pro-Arg-Ser-Pro-Ser-Ser, encompassing amino acids 379 to 386 of the EBNA-1 protein.
PMCID: PMC239927  PMID: 1847464
10.  Tethered Sir3p nucleates silencing at telomeres and internal loci in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1996;16(5):2483-2495.
Rap1p binds to sites embedded within the Saccharomyces cerevisiae telomeric TG1-3 tract. Previous studies have led to the hypothesis that Rap1p may recruit Sir3p and Sir3p-associating factors to the telomere. To test this, we tethered Sir3p adjacent to the telomere via LexA binding sites in the rap1-17 mutant that truncates the Rap1p C-terminal 165 amino acids thought to contain sites for Sir3p association. Tethering of LexA-Sir3p adjacent to the telomere is sufficient to restore telomeric silencing, indicating that Sir3p can nucleate silencing at the telomere. Tethering of LexA-Sir3p or the LexA-Sir3p(N2O5) gain-of-function protein to a telomeric LexA site hyperrepresses an adjacent ADE2 gene in wild-type cells. Hence, Sir3p recruitment to the telomere is limiting in telomeric silencing. In addition, LexA-Sir3p(N2O5) hyperrepresses telomeric silencing when tethered to a subtelomeric site 3.6 kb from the telomeric tract. This hyperrepression is dependent on the C terminus of Rap1p, suggesting that subtelomeric LexA-Sir3p(N205) can interact with Rap1p-associated factors at the telomere. We also demonstrate that LexA-Sir3p or LexA-Sir3p(N205) tethered in cis with a short tract of telomeric TG1-3 sequences is sufficient to confer silencing at an internal chromosomal position. Internal silencing is enhanced in rap1-17 strains. We propose that sequestration of silencing factors at the telomere limits the efficiency of internal silencing.
PMCID: PMC231237  PMID: 8628316
11.  Computational analysis of LexA regulons in Cyanobacteria 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:527.
The transcription factor LexA plays an important role in the SOS response in Escherichia coli and many other bacterial species studied. Although the lexA gene is encoded in almost every bacterial group with a wide range of evolutionary distances, its precise functions in each group/species are largely unknown. More recently, it has been shown that lexA genes in two cyanobacterial genomes Nostoc sp. PCC 7120 and Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 might have distinct functions other than the regulation of the SOS response. To gain a general understanding of the functions of LexA and its evolution in cyanobacteria, we conducted the current study.
Our analysis indicates that six of 33 sequenced cyanobacterial genomes do not harbor a lexA gene although they all encode the key SOS response genes, suggesting that LexA is not an indispensable transcription factor in these cyanobacteria, and that their SOS responses might be regulated by different mechanisms. Our phylogenetic analysis suggests that lexA was lost during the course of evolution in these six cyanobacterial genomes. For the 26 cyanobacterial genomes that encode a lexA gene, we have predicted their LexA-binding sites and regulons using an efficient binding site/regulon prediction algorithm that we developed previously. Our results show that LexA in most of these 26 genomes might still function as the transcriptional regulator of the SOS response genes as seen in E. coli and other organisms. Interestingly, putative LexA-binding sites were also found in some genomes for some key genes involved in a variety of other biological processes including photosynthesis, drug resistance, etc., suggesting that there is crosstalk between the SOS response and these biological processes. In particular, LexA in both Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 and Gloeobacter violaceus PCC7421 has largely diverged from those in other cyanobacteria in the sequence level. It is likely that LexA is no longer a regulator of the SOS response in Synechocystis sp. PCC6803.
In most cyanobacterial genomes that we analyzed, LexA appears to function as the transcriptional regulator of the key SOS response genes. There are possible couplings between the SOS response and other biological processes. In some cyanobacteria, LexA has adapted distinct functions, and might no longer be a regulator of the SOS response system. In some other cyanobacteria, lexA appears to have been lost during the course of evolution. The loss of lexA in these genomes might lead to the degradation of its binding sites.
PMCID: PMC3091678  PMID: 20920248
12.  Rpm2p, a Component of Yeast Mitochondrial RNase P, Acts as a Transcriptional Activator in the Nucleus 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(15):6546-6558.
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.
PMCID: PMC1190346  PMID: 16024791
13.  A tryptophan-rich peptide acts as a transcription activation domain 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:85.
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.
PMCID: PMC2992532  PMID: 21078206
14.  Genetic dissection of the transactivating domain of the E1a 289R protein of adenovirus type 2. 
Journal of Virology  1989;63(4):1495-1504.
A series of linker-scanning, deletion, and frameshift mutations were made in the pm975 variant of the adenovirus type 2 E1a gene, which expresses only the larger of the two major E1a proteins. Most of these were within the 46-amino-acid segment unique to the larger E1a protein product (the 289R protein), which confers on it the ability to activate in trans the expression of other genes. The mutations were recombined into virus and assayed by in vitro transcription in nuclei isolated from infected cells for their ability to activate the transcription of other viral early genes and of the endogenous hsp70 gene. Mutant E1a proteins from which the 289R-unique segment was removed by deletion or truncation did not completely lose the ability to transactivate by comparison with a virus which makes no E1a at all, indicating that sequences outside this domain are active in the positive regulation of transcription. The E1a mutations tested fell into several classes: those that increased transactivation of virtually all genes, those that severely depressed transactivation of all genes, and those that depressed transactivation only moderately. Each mutation had similar effects on the expression of all transcription units tested, indicating a common process in their transactivation. However, some mutants in the third category decreased transactivation of some induced genes more severely than of others. Such gene-specific defects suggest the existence of subclasses of E1a-responsive transcription units, consistent with the involvement of diverse proteins in the transactivation of different genes. Two specific structural components of the transactivating domain, a putative metal-binding element and a region with high potential for beta-sheet formation at its carboxy-terminus, appear to be important to the transactivation function.
PMCID: PMC248381  PMID: 2522557
15.  LuxArray, a High-Density, Genomewide Transcription Analysis of Escherichia coli Using Bioluminescent Reporter Strains 
Journal of Bacteriology  2001;183(19):5496-5505.
A sequenced collection of plasmid-borne random fusions of Escherichia coli DNA to a Photorhabdus luminescens luxCDABE reporter was used as a starting point to select a set of 689 nonredundant functional gene fusions. This group, called LuxArray 1.0, represented 27% of the predicted transcriptional units in E. coli. High-density printing of the LuxArray 1.0 reporter strains to membranes on agar plates was used for simultaneous reporter gene assays of gene expression. The cellular response to nalidixic acid perturbation was analyzed using this format. As expected, fusions to promoters of LexA-controlled SOS-responsive genes dinG, dinB, uvrA, and ydjM were found to be upregulated in the presence of nalidixic acid. In addition, six fusions to genes not previously known to be induced by nalidixic acid were also reproducibly upregulated. The responses of two of these, fusions to oraA and yigN, were induced in a LexA-dependent manner by both nalidixic acid and mitomycin C, identifying these as members of the LexA regulon. The responses of the other four were neither induced by mitomycin C nor dependent on lexA function. Thus, the promoters of ycgH, intG, rihC, and a putative operon consisting of lpxA, lpxB, rnhB, and dnaE were not generally DNA damage responsive and represent a more specific response to nalidixic acid. These results demonstrate that cellular arrays of reporter gene fusions are an important alternative to DNA arrays for genomewide transcriptional analyses.
PMCID: PMC95439  PMID: 11544210
16.  Separation of Recombination and SOS Response in Escherichia coli RecA Suggests LexA Interaction Sites 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002244.
RecA plays a key role in homologous recombination, the induction of the DNA damage response through LexA cleavage and the activity of error-prone polymerase in Escherichia coli. RecA interacts with multiple partners to achieve this pleiotropic role, but the structural location and sequence determinants involved in these multiple interactions remain mostly unknown. Here, in a first application to prokaryotes, Evolutionary Trace (ET) analysis identifies clusters of evolutionarily important surface amino acids involved in RecA functions. Some of these clusters match the known ATP binding, DNA binding, and RecA-RecA homo-dimerization sites, but others are novel. Mutation analysis at these sites disrupted either recombination or LexA cleavage. This highlights distinct functional sites specific for recombination and DNA damage response induction. Finally, our analysis reveals a composite site for LexA binding and cleavage, which is formed only on the active RecA filament. These new sites can provide new drug targets to modulate one or more RecA functions, with the potential to address the problem of evolution of antibiotic resistance at its root.
Author Summary
In eubacteria, genome integrity is in large part orchestrated by RecA, which directly participates in recombination, induction of DNA damage response through LexA repressor cleavage and error-prone DNA synthesis. Yet, most of the interaction sites necessary for these vital processes are largely unknown. By comparing divergences among RecA sequences and computing putative functional regions, we discovered four functional sites of RecA. Targeted point-mutations were then tested for both recombination and DNA damage induction and reveal distinct RecA functions at each one of these sites. In particular, one new set of mutants is deficient in promoting LexA cleavage and yet maintains the ability to induce the DNA damage response. These results reveal specific amino acid determinants of the RecA–LexA interaction and suggest that LexA binds RecAi and RecAi+6 at a composite site on the RecA filament, which could explain the role of the active filament during LexA cleavage.
PMCID: PMC3164682  PMID: 21912525
17.  Cloning of human and bovine homologs of SNF2/SWI2: a global activator of transcription in yeast S. cerevisiae. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1992;20(17):4649-4655.
We performed positional cloning of genes carried on yeast artificial chromosomes that span a human translocation breakpoint associated with a human disease and isolated by chance human and bovine genes with strong homology to the S. cerevisiae genes, SNF2/SWI2 and STH1, and the D. melanogaster gene brahma. We report here sequence analysis, expression data, and functional studies for this human SNF2-like gene (hSNF2L) and its bovine homolog (bovSNF2L). Despite strong homology at the amino acid level, hSNF2L is not capable of complementing the yeast mutations snf2 or sth1 in S. cerevisiae. Furthermore, in contrast to SNF2 itself, a fusion protein consisting of the DNA binding domain of LexA and hSNF2L did not transactivate a reporter gene downstream of LexA binding sites in a yeast expression system. The strong similarity between hSNF2L and these yeast and drosophila genes suggest that the mammalian genes are part of an evolutionarily conserved family that has been implicated as global activators of transcription in yeast and fruitflies but whose function in mammals remains unknown.
PMCID: PMC334196  PMID: 1408766
18.  Genes regulated by the Escherichia coli SOS repressor LexA exhibit heterogenous expression 
BMC Microbiology  2010;10:283.
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.
PMCID: PMC2994835  PMID: 21070632
19.  Silencing of DNase Colicin E8 Gene Expression by a Complex Nucleoprotein Assembly Ensures Timely Colicin Induction 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(6):e1005354.
Colicins are plasmid-encoded narrow spectrum antibiotics that are synthesized by strains of Escherichia coli and govern intraspecies competition. In a previous report, we demonstrated that the global transcriptional factor IscR, co dependently with the master regulator of the DNA damage response, LexA, delays induction of the pore forming colicin genes after SOS induction. Here we show that IscR is not involved in the regulation of nuclease colicins, but that the AsnC protein is. We report that AsnC, in concert with LexA, is the key controller of the temporal induction of the DNA degrading colicin E8 gene (cea8), after DNA damage. We demonstrate that a large AsnC nucleosome-like structure, in conjunction with two LexA molecules, prevent cea8 transcription initiation and that AsnC binding activity is directly modulated by L asparagine. We show that L-asparagine is an environmental factor that has a marked impact on cea8 promoter regulation. Our results show that AsnC also modulates the expression of several other DNase and RNase colicin genes but does not substantially affect pore-forming colicin K gene expression. We propose that selection pressure has “chosen” highly conserved regulators to control colicin expression in E. coli strains, enabling similar colicin gene silencing among bacteria upon exchange of colicinogenic plasmids.
Author Summary
Colicins are considered model proteins for studying bacterial toxins. These narrow spectrum antibiotics can kill by a variety of mechanisms, e.g. by forming pores in the membranes of susceptible cells or by degrading their nucleic acids. Colicin genes are plasmid-encoded and repressed by the master regulator of the DNA damage response, LexA. Induction of several pore-forming colicin genes is also repressed by IscR, which ensures that colicin genes are switched on as a last resort in DNA damaged cells, when nutrients are depleted. Here we show that nuclease colicin genes are not controlled by IscR but that the AsnC protein, in concert with LexA, is directly responsible for uncoupling the immediate expression of the DNase colicin E8 from the main induction of the SOS response. AsnC wraps the DNA of the colicin E8 promoter into a complex nucleoprotein assembly and the architecture of this complex is altered by the presence of the amino acid L-asparagine. Thus, repression by metabolite-responsive and DNA-damage responsive regulators operates at the regulatory regions of different colicins. Hence, the response to several environmental signals have been integrated to ensure that, following DNA damage, colicin synthesis is tightly repressed and induced only in terminally damaged cells.
PMCID: PMC4482635  PMID: 26114960
20.  The functionally active IE2 immediate-early regulatory protein of human cytomegalovirus is an 80-kilodalton polypeptide that contains two distinct activator domains and a duplicated nuclear localization signal. 
Journal of Virology  1991;65(7):3839-3852.
The IE2 region of the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) strain Towne major immediate-early (MIE) gene encodes a transcriptional transactivator that stimulates expression from a variety of heterologous target promoters but specifically down-regulates its own promoter. By immunofluorescence and Western immunoblot analysis with monospecific peptide antisera, we found that human CMV MIE exon 5 encodes four overlapping polypeptides, two present at immediate-early times (80 and 55 kDa) and two others detected only at late times after infection (55 and 40 kDa). However, only the 80-kDa version (579 amino acids), which is derived from the small upstream exons 2 and 3 fused to the intact exon 5 region, was functionally active in both transactivation and autoregulation as assessed by cotransfection experiments. These results confirm the corrected assignment of the coding capacity of the exon 5 region based on amino acid homology with the equivalent IE2 protein from simian CMV (Colburn). In transient DNA transfection assays, IE2 expression plasmids also produced a predominant full-length 80-kDa protein, which was localized in a distinctive reticular pattern in the nucleus. Two short basic nuclear localization signals in IE2 were identified by deletion analysis and by conversion of a test cytoplasmic herpes simplex virus protein into a form that localized in the nucleus after insertion of either of these two human CMV motifs. Functional assays with MIE region plasmids containing deletions or truncations in exon 5 revealed that both transactivation and autoregulation required several distinct domains within the COOH half of the IE2 protein, whereas a region between codons 99 and 194 could be discarded. Three segments at the NH2 end of the protein between codons 1 to 85, 86 to 98, and 195 to 290 were also essential for transactivation but played no role in autoregulation. Finally, in domain swap experiments, GAL4-fusion proteins containing either an NH2-terminal 51-amino-acid domain from exon 3 (codons 25 to 85) or the COOH-terminal 33-amino-acid domain from exon 5 (codons 544 to 579) identified two distinct activator domains from IE2, both of which have acidic characteristics.
PMCID: PMC241415  PMID: 1645794
21.  Targeting of promoters for trans activation by a carboxy-terminal domain of the NS-1 protein of the parvovirus minute virus of mice. 
Journal of Virology  1994;68(12):7974-7985.
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.
PMCID: PMC237260  PMID: 7966588
22.  An Abf1p C-terminal region lacking transcriptional activation potential stimulates a yeast origin of replication. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(21):4250-4256.
Although it has been demonstrated that eukaryotic cellular origins of DNA replication may harbor stimulatory elements that bind transcription factors, how these factors stimulate origin function is unknown. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae , the transcription factor Abf1p stimulates origin function of ARS121 and ARS1 . In the results presented here, an analysis of Abf1p function has been carried out utilizing LexA(BD)-Abf1p fusion proteins and an ARS 121 derivative harboring LexA DNA-binding sites. A minimal region which stimulates origin function mapped to 50 amino acids within the C-terminus of Abf1p. When tested for transcriptional activation of a LacZ reporter gene, the same LexA(BD)-Abf1p fusion protein had negligible transcriptional activation potential. Therefore, stimulation of ARS 121 may occur independently of a transcriptional activation domain. It has been previously observed that the Gal4p, Rap1p DNA-binding sites and the LexA-Gal4p fusion protein can replace the role of Abf1p in stimulating ARS 1 . Here we show that the stimulatory function of Abf1p at ARS 121 cannot be replaced by these alternative DNA-binding sites and the potent chimeric transcriptional activator LexA(BD)-Gal4(AD)p . Hence, these results strongly suggest that the Abf1p stimulation of replication may differ for ARS 121 and ARS 1 , and imply specificity in the Abf1p/ARS 121 relationship.
PMCID: PMC147049  PMID: 9336454
23.  The Epstein-Barr virus R transactivator (Rta) contains a complex, potent activation domain with properties different from those of VP16. 
Journal of Virology  1992;66(9):5500-5508.
Rta, encoded by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), is a potent activator of transcription via enhancer sequences located upstream of several viral genes. To identify the domains of Rta that facilitate transcription by interacting with cellular transcription factors, different segments of Rta were linked to the DNA binding domain of yeast transactivator GAL4 (residues 1 to 147). These GAL4-Rta fusion proteins were tested in transfected cells for their ability to activate the adeno E1b promoter with an upstream GAL4 DNA binding site. The acidic C-terminal domain of Rta (amino acids 520 to 605) was a potent activator but behaved differently from VP16 in dose-response and competition experiments. A subterminal domain of Rta (amino acids 416 to 519) linked to GAL4 had weak activation activity. Deletion of these domains from native Rta showed that the C-terminal domain was required for transactivation, but the subterminal domain was required only in B cells. The C-terminal activation domain of Rta contains a pattern of positionally conserved hydrophobic residues shared with VP16 and other transactivators. Substitution of several conserved hydrophobic amino acids in Rta severely impaired transactivation. The improtance of hydrophobic residues was further substantiated by comparing EBV Rta with that of herpesvirus saimiri, which revealed little sequence similarity except for a few acidic residues and the positionally conserved hydrophobic amino acids. The C-terminal domain of EBV Rta contains three partially overlapping copies of this hydrophobic motif. Mutational analysis indicated that all three copies were required for full activity. However, two of the three copies appeared to be sufficient to produce full activity on a target promoter with multiple binding sites, suggesting that these motifs are functional subdomains that can synergize.
PMCID: PMC289108  PMID: 1323708
24.  Homotypic interactions of chicken GATA-1 can mediate transcriptional activation. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1995;15(3):1353-1363.
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.
PMCID: PMC230359  PMID: 7862128
25.  Regulation of Budding Yeast Mating-Type Switching Donor Preference by the FHA Domain of Fkh1 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002630.
During Saccharomyces cerevisiae mating-type switching, an HO endonuclease-induced double-strand break (DSB) at MAT is repaired by recombining with one of two donors, HMLα or HMRa, located at opposite ends of chromosome III. MATa cells preferentially recombine with HMLα; this decision depends on the Recombination Enhancer (RE), located about 17 kb to the right of HML. In MATα cells, HML is rarely used and RE is bound by the MATα2-Mcm1 corepressor, which prevents the binding of other proteins to RE. In contrast, in MATa cells, RE is bound by multiple copies of Fkh1 and a single copy of Swi4/Swi6. We report here that, when RE is replaced with four LexA operators in MATa cells, 95% of cells use HMR for repair, but expression of a LexA-Fkh1 fusion protein strongly increases HML usage. A LexA-Fkh1 truncation, containing only Fkh1's phosphothreonine-binding FHA domain, restores HML usage to 90%. A LexA-FHA-R80A mutant lacking phosphothreonine binding fails to increase HML usage. The LexA-FHA fusion protein associates with chromatin in a 10-kb interval surrounding the HO cleavage site at MAT, but only after DSB induction. This association occurs even in a donorless strain lacking HML. We propose that the FHA domain of Fkh1 regulates donor preference by physically interacting with phosphorylated threonine residues created on proteins bound near the DSB, thus positioning HML close to the DSB at MAT. Donor preference is independent of Mec1/ATR and Tel1/ATM checkpoint protein kinases but partially depends on casein kinase II. RE stimulates the strand invasion step of interchromosomal recombination even for non-MAT sequences. We also find that when RE binds to the region near the DSB at MATa then Mec1 and Tel1 checkpoint kinases are not only able to phosphorylate histone H2A (γ-H2AX) around the DSB but can also promote γ-H2AX spreading around the RE region.
Author Summary
Mating-type gene switching occurs by a DSB–initiated gene conversion event using one of two donors, HML or HMR. MATa cells preferentially recombine with HML whereas MATα cells choose HMR. Donor preference is governed by the Recombination Enhancer (RE), located about 17 kb from HML. RE is repressed in MATα cells, whereas in MATa RE binds several copies of the Fkh1 protein. We replaced RE with four LexA operators and showed that the expression of LexA-Fkh1 fusion protein enhances HML usage. Donor preference depends on the phosphothreonine-binding FHA domain of Fkh1. LexA-FHAFkh1 physically associates with chromatin in the region surrounding the DSB at MAT. We propose that RE regulates donor preference by the binding of FHAFkh1 domains to phosphorylated sites around the DSB at MAT, thus bringing HML much closer than HMR. FHAFkh1 action partially depends on casein kinase II but not on the DNA damage checkpoint kinases Mec1 and Tel1. We also find that, when RE binds to the MAT region, phosphorylation of histone H2A (γ-H2AX) by Mec1/Tel1 not only surrounds the DSB but also spreads around RE. This is the first demonstration that γ-H2AX can spread to contiguous, but undamaged, chromatin.
PMCID: PMC3320585  PMID: 22496671

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