Engineering the loop region of a homeodomain-leucine zipper protein promotes efficient binding to a monomeric DNA binding site

Biochemistry. 2004 Dec 21;43(50):15845-51. doi: 10.1021/bi048254a.


Plant homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-Zip) proteins, unlike many animal homeodomains (HDs), are unable to bind DNA as monomers. To investigate the molecular basis of their different behavior, we have constructed chimeras between the HD of the sunflower HD-Zip protein Hahb-4 and that of Drosophila engrailed (EN). Analysis of the interaction of these proteins with the pseudopalindromic Hahb-4 binding site and the monomeric EN binding site suggests that the loop located between helix I and helix II (amino acids 21-28) of EN is enough to confer efficient DNA binding activity to the Hahb-4 HD. Accordingly, the combined mutation of residues 24 and 25 of Hahb-4 to those present in EN (S24R/R25Y) originated an HD able to interact with the EN binding site, while single mutations were ineffective. We have also determined that a protein with the leucine zipper and helix III of Hahb-4 fused to the rest of the EN HD binds to the Hahb-4 pseudopalindomic binding site with increased affinity and shows extended contacts with DNA respective to Hahb-4. We conclude that the loop located between helix I and helix II of the HD must be regarded as one of the segments that contribute to the present-day diversity in the properties of different HDs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Homeodomain Proteins / chemistry
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Leucine Zippers
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Point Mutation / genetics
  • Protein Engineering
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • En protein, Drosophila
  • HD-Zip protein, Helianthus annuus
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA