The velvet family of fungal regulators contains a DNA-binding domain structurally similar to NF-κB

PLoS Biol. 2013 Dec;11(12):e1001750. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001750. Epub 2013 Dec 31.


Morphological development of fungi and their combined production of secondary metabolites are both acting in defence and protection. These processes are mainly coordinated by velvet regulators, which contain a yet functionally and structurally uncharacterized velvet domain. Here we demonstrate that the velvet domain of VosA is a novel DNA-binding motif that specifically recognizes an 11-nucleotide consensus sequence consisting of two motifs in the promoters of key developmental regulatory genes. The crystal structure analysis of the VosA velvet domain revealed an unforeseen structural similarity with the Rel homology domain (RHD) of the mammalian transcription factor NF-κB. Based on this structural similarity several conserved amino acid residues present in all velvet domains have been identified and shown to be essential for the DNA binding ability of VosA. The velvet domain is also involved in dimer formation as seen in the solved crystal structures of the VosA homodimer and the VosA-VelB heterodimer. These findings suggest that defence mechanisms of both fungi and animals might be governed by structurally related DNA-binding transcription factors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus nidulans / genetics
  • Aspergillus nidulans / physiology
  • Consensus Sequence / genetics
  • Consensus Sequence / physiology
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • DNA, Fungal / physiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / physiology*
  • Genes, Fungal / genetics
  • Genes, Fungal / physiology
  • Genes, rel / genetics
  • Genes, rel / physiology
  • NF-kappa B / genetics*
  • NF-kappa B / physiology


  • DNA, Fungal
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • NF-kappa B

Grant support

This work was supported in Göttingen by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to GHB (SFB860 TP B06, BR1502/11-2). The work at UW-Madison was supported by the US National Science Foundation (IOS-0950850); USDA CSREES Hatch (WIS01195); and the Intelligent Synthetic Biology Center of Global Frontier Project (2011-0031955) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Republic of Korea. The work at KAIST (SCK) was supported by the Intelligent Synthetic Biology Center of Global Frontier Project (2011-0031955) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Republic of Korea to SCK. We acknowledge support for open access publication by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Funds of the Göttingen University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.