The C6 zinc finger and adjacent amino acids determine DNA-binding specificity and affinity in the yeast activator proteins LAC9 and PPR1

M. M. Witte, R. C. Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


LAC9 is a DNA-binding protein that regulates transcription of the lactose-galactose regulon in Kluyveromyces lactis. The DNA-binding domain is composed of a zinc finger and nearby amino acids (M. M. Witte and R. C. Dickson, Mol. Cell. Biol. 8:3726-3733, 1988). The single zinc finger appears to be structurally related to the zinc finger of many other fungal transcription activator proteins that contain positively charged residues and six conserved cysteines with the general form Cys-Xaa2-Cys-Xaa6-Cys-Xaa6-9-Cys-Xaa 2-Cys-Xaa6-Cys, where Xaan indicates a stretch of the indicated number of any amino acids (R. M. Evans and S. M. Hollenberg, Cell 52:1-3, 1988). The function(s) of the zinc finger and other amino acids in DNA-binding remains unclear. To determine which portion of the LAC9 DNA-binding domain mediates sequence recognition, we replaced the C6 zinc finger, amino acids adjacent to the carboxyl side of the zinc finger, or both with the analogous region from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae PPR1 or LEU3 protein. A chimeric LAC9 protein, LAC9(PPR1 34-61), carrying only the PPR1 zinc finger, retained the DNA-binding specificity of LAC9. However, LAC9(PPR1 34-75), carrying the PPR1 zinc finger and 14 amino acids on the carboxyl side of the zinc finger, gained the DNA-binding specificity of PPR1, indicating that these 14 amino acids are necessary for specific DNA binding. Our data show that C6 fingers can substitute for each other and allow DNA binding, but binding affinity is reduced. Thus, in a qualitative sense C6 fingers perform a similar function(s). However, the high-affinity binding required by natural C6 finger proteins demands a unique C6 finger with a specific amino acid sequence. This requirement may reflect conformational constraints, including interactions between the C6 finger and the carboxyl-adjacent amino acids; alternatively or in addition, it may indicate that unique, nonconserved amino acid residues in zinc fingers make sequence-specifying or stabilizing contacts with DNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5128-5137
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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