Extensive mutagenesis of a transcriptional activation domain identifies single hydrophobic and acidic amino acids important for activation in vivo

Manuel B. Sainz, Stephen A Goff, Vicki L. Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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C1 is a transcriptional activator of genes encoding biosynthetic enzymes of the maize anthocyanin pigment pathway. C1 has an amino terminus homologous to Myb DNA-binding domains and an acidic carboxyl terminus that is a transcriptional activation domain in maize and yeast cells. To identify amino acids critical for transcriptional activation, an extensive random mutagenesis of the C1 carboxyl terminus was done. The C1 activation domain is remarkably tolerant of amino acid substitutions, as changes at 34 residues had little or no effect on transcriptional activity. These changes include introduction of helix-incompatible amino acids throughout the C1 activation domain and alteration of most single acidic amino acids, suggesting that a previously postulated amphipathic α-helix is not required for activation. Substitutions at two positions revealed amino acids important for transcriptional activation. Replacement of leucine 253 with a proline or glutamine resulted in approximately 10% of wild-type transcriptional activation. Leucine 253 is in a region of C1 in which several hydrophobic residues align with residues important for transcriptional activation by the herpes simplex virus VP16 protein. However, changes at all other hydrophobic residues in C1 indicate that none are critical for C1 transcriptional activation. The other important amino acid in C1 is aspartate 262, as a change to valine resulted in only 24% of wild-type transcriptional activation. Comparison of our C1 results with those from VP16 reveal substantial differences in which amino acids are required for transcriptional activation in vivo by these two acidic activation domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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