Background: MSSPs, myc single strand binding proteins, were originally identified as proteins recognizing a putative replication origin/transcriptional enhancer in the human c-Myc gene. The cDNAs encoding four of the family proteins, MSSP-1, MSSP-2, Scr2 and Scr3, were cloned. These proteins carry two copies of the putative RNA binding domains, RNP-A and RNP-B, and have been suggested to participate in DNA replication and cell cycle progression from the G1 to the S phase.
Results: We report that MSSP-1 and MSSP-2 bound directly to the C-terminal portion of c-Myc, along with Max, side by side. MSSP, c-Myc and Max formed a ternary complex in vivo, although MSSP did not directly associate with Max. The MSSP/Myc/Max ternary complex lost the binding activity to the E-box sequence-the recognition sequence of c-Myc/Max complex-thereby abrogating the E-box-dependent transcription activity of c-Myc. MSSP specifically stimulated the cooperative transforming activity of c-myc with ras, in a manner dependent upon the RNP sequences, while mssp itself showed no transforming activity in mouse NIH3T3 cells. The NIH3T3 transformants, together with ras, myc and mssp, grew to form very large colonies in soft agar, as compared to those with ras plus myc or ras alone.
Conclusions: MSSP is a modulator of c-Myc and the c-Myc/MSSP complex may deregulate cell cycle controls and lead cells towards transforming pathways.