Regulatory genes directing embryonic development are expressed in complex patterns. The Drosophila homeobox gene fushi tarazu (ftz) is expressed in a striped pattern that is controlled by several discrete and large cis- regulatory elements. One key cis-element is the ftz proximal enhancer which is required for stripe establishment and which mediates autoregulation by direct binding of Ftz protein. To identify the trans-acting factors that regulate ftz expression and autoregulation, we developed a modified yeast two hybrid screen, the Double Interaction Screen (DIS). The DIS was designed to isolate both DNA binding transcriptional regulators that interact with the proximal enhancer and proteins that interact with Ftz itself when it is bound to the enhancer. The screen identified two candidate Ftz protein cofactors as well as activators and repressors of ftz transcription that bind directly to the enhancer. One of these (Tramtrack (Ttk)) was previously shown to bind to at least five sites in the proximal enhancer; genetic studies suggested that Ttk acts as a repressor of ftz in the embryo. Here we show that, in yeast cells, Ttk protein strongly activates transcription, suggesting that yeast may be missing a necessary co-repressor which is present in Drosophila embryos. Further, we have characterized the activity of a second candidate ftz repressor isolated in the screen - the product of the pair-rule gene sloppy paired - a member of the forkhead family. We show that Slp1 is a DNA binding protein. We have identified a high affinity binding site for Slp1 in the ftz proximal enhancer. Slp1 represses transcription via this binding site in yeast cells, consistent with its role as a direct repressor of ftz stripes in interstripe regions during late stages of embryogenesis. The DIS should be a generally useful method to identify DNA binding transcriptional regulators and protein partners of previously characterized DNA binding proteins.
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