The human herpes simplex virus-associated host cell factor 1 (HCF-1) is a conserved human transcriptional co-regulator that links positive and negative histone modifying activities with sequence-specific DNA-binding transcription factors. It is synthesized as a 2035 amino acid precursor that is cleaved to generate an amino- (HCF-1N) terminal subunit, which promotes G1-to-S phase progression, and a carboxy- (HCF-1C) terminal subunit, which controls multiple aspects of cell division during M phase. The HCF-1N subunit contains a Kelch domain that tethers HCF-1 to sequence-specific DNA-binding transcription factors, and a poorly characterized so called “Basic” region (owing to a high ratio of basic vs. acidic amino acids) that is required for cell proliferation and has been shown to associate with the Sin3 histone deacetylase (HDAC) component. Here we studied the role of the Basic region in cell proliferation and G1-to-S phase transition assays.
Surprisingly, much like the transcriptional activation domains of sequence-specific DNA-binding transcription factors, there is no unique sequence within the Basic region required for promoting cell proliferation or G1-to-S phase transition. Indeed, the ability to promote these activities is size dependent such that the shorter the Basic region segment the less activity observed. We find, however, that the Basic region requirements for promoting cell proliferation in a temperature-sensitive tsBN67 cell assay are more stringent than for G1-to-S phase progression in an HCF-1 siRNA-depletion HeLa-cell assay. Thus, either half of the Basic region alone can support G1-to-S phase progression but not cell proliferation effectively in these assays. Nevertheless, the Basic region displays considerable structural plasticity because each half is able to promote cell proliferation when duplicated in tandem. Consistent with a potential role in promoting cell-cycle progression, the Sin3a HDAC component can associate independently with either half of the Basic region fused to the HCF-1 Kelch domain.
While conserved, the HCF-1 Basic region displays striking structural flexibility for controlling cell proliferation.