The floral homeotic protein SEPALLATA3 recognizes target DNA sequences by shape readout involving a conserved arginine residue in the MADS-domain.
(2018) The floral homeotic protein SEPALLATA3 recognizes target DNA sequences by shape readout involving a conserved arginine residue in the MADS-domain. Plant J 95(2), 341-357.
Assessing DNA-binding specificity of MADS-domain transcription factors
SEPALLATA3 of Arabidopsis thaliana is a MADS-domain transcription factor (TF) and a key regulator of flower development. MADS-domain proteins bind to sequences termed 'CArG-boxes' [consensus 5'-CC(A/T)6 GG-3']. Because only a fraction of the CArG-boxes in the Arabidopsis genome are bound by SEPALLATA3, more elaborate principles have to be discovered to better understand which features turn CArG-boxes into genuine recognition sites. Here, we investigate to what extent the shape of the DNA is involved in a 'shape readout' that contributes to the binding of SEPALLATA3. We determined in vitro binding affinities of SEPALLATA3 to DNA probes that all contain the CArG-box motif, but differ in their predicted DNA shape. We found that binding affinity correlates well with a narrow minor groove of the DNA. Substitution of canonical bases with non-standard bases supports the hypothesis of minor groove shape readout by SEPALLATA3. Analysis of mutant SEPALLATA3 proteins further revealed that a highly conserved arginine residue, which is expected to contact the DNA minor groove, contributes significantly to the shape readout. Our studies show that the specific recognition of cis-regulatory elements by a plant MADS-domain TF, and by inference probably also of other TFs of this type, heavily depends on shape readout mechanisms.
doi: 10.1111/tpj.13954 PMID: 29744943