The PAS superfamily: sensors of environmental and developmental signals

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2000;40:519-61. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.40.1.519.


Over the past decade, PAS domains have been identified in dozens of signal transduction molecules and various forms have been found in animals, plants, and prokaryotes. In this review, we summarize this rapidly expanding research area by providing a detailed description of three signal transduction pathways that utilize PAS protein heterodimers to drive their transcriptional output. It is hoped that these model pathways can provide a framework for use in understanding the biology of the less well-understood members of this emerging superfamily, as well as of those to be characterized in the days to come. We use this review to develop the idea that most eukaryotic PAS proteins can be classified by functional similarities, as well as by predicted phylogenetic relationships. We focus on the alpha-class proteins, which often act as sensors of environmental signals, and the beta-class proteins, which typically act as broad-spectrum partners that target these heterodimers to their genomic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / physiology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • ARNT protein, human
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • PER protein, Drosophila
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Transcription Factors
  • sim protein, Drosophila
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator