The BTB (bric-a-brac, tramtrack and broad complex)/POZ (poxvirus and zinc finger) domain is a conserved protein-protein interaction motif contained in a variety of transcription factors involved in development, chromatin remodeling, insulator activity, and carcinogenesis. All well-studied mammalian BTB domains form obligate homodimers and, rarely, tetramers. Only the BTB domain of the Drosophila GAGA factor (GAF) has been shown to exist as higher-order multimers. The BTB domain of GAF belongs to the "ttk group" that contains several highly conserved sequences not found in other BTB domains. Here, we have shown by size-exclusion chromatography, chemical cross-linking, and nondenaturing PAGE that four additional BTB domains of the ttk group-Batman, Mod(mdg4), Pipsqueak, and Tramtrack-can form multimers, like GAF. Interestingly, the BTB domains of GAF and Batman have formed a wide range of complexes and interacted in the yeast two-hybrid assay with other BTB domains tested. In contrast, the BTB domains of Mod(mdg4), Pipsqueak, and Tramtrack have formed stable high-order multimer complexes and failed to interact with each other. The BTB domain of Drosophila CP190 protein does not belong to the ttk group. This BTB domain has formed stable dimers and has not interacted with domains of the ttk group. Previously, it was suggested that GAF oligomerization into higher-order complexes facilitates long-range activation by providing a protein bridge between an enhancer and a promoter. Unexpectedly, experiments in the Drosophila model system have not supported the role of GAF in organization of long-distance interaction between the yeast GAL4 activator and the white promoter.
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