Combinatorial assortment by dynamic dimer formation diversifies gene transcriptional specificities of transcription factors. A similar but biochemically distinct mechanism is competitive inhibition in which small proteins act as negative regulators by competitively forming nonfunctional heterodimers with specific transcription factors. The most extensively studied is the negative regulation of auxin response factors by AUXIN/INDOLE-3-ACETIC ACID repressors. Similarly, Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) little zipper and mini finger proteins act as competitive inhibitors of target transcription factors. Competitive inhibitors are also generated by alternative splicing and controlled proteolytic processing. Because they provide a way of attenuating transcription factors we propose to call them small interfering peptides (siPEPs). The siPEP-mediated strategy could be applied to deactivate specific transcription factors in crop plants.
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