Characterization of the dead ringer gene identifies a novel, highly conserved family of sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins


We reported the identification of a new family of DNA-binding proteins from our characterization of the dead ringer (dri) gene of Drosophila melanogaster. We show that dri encodes a nuclear protein that contains a sequence-specific DNA-binding domain that bears no similarity to known DNA-binding domains. A number of proteins were found to contain sequences homologous to this domain. Other proteins containing the conserved motif include yeast SWI1, two human retinoblastoma binding proteins, and other mammalian regulatory proteins. A mouse B-cell-specific regulator exhibits 75% identity with DRI over the 137-amino-acid DNA-binding domains of these proteins, indicating a high degree of conservation of this domain. Gel retardation and optimal binding site screens revealed that the in vitro sequence specificity of DRI is strikingly similar to that of many homeodomain proteins, although the sequence and predicted secondary structure do not resemble a homeodomain. The early general expression of dri and the similarity of DRI and homeodomain in vitro DNA-binding specificity compound the problem of understanding the in vivo specificity of action of these proteins. Maternally derived dri product is found throughout the embryo until germ band extension, when dri is expressed in a developmentally regulated set of tissues, including salivary gland ducts, parts of the gut, and a subset of neural cells. The discovery of this new, conserved DNA-binding domain offers an explanation for the regulatory activity of several important members of this class and predicts significant regulatory roles for the others.

Molecular and Cellular Biology 16:792-799