Sequence-specific DNA-binding activities of the gap proteins encoded by hunchback and Krüppel in Drosophila

Nature. 1989 Sep 28;341(6240):331-5. doi: 10.1038/341331a0.


The segmentation of the Drosophila body plan depends on a hierarchy of interactions among approximately 20-25 regulatory genes that are active in the early embryo (refs 1-4; for a review see ref. 5). The gap genes have a key role in this process and are responsible for the periodic expression of certain pair-rule genes and the localized expression of several homoeotic genes. The two best characterized gap genes, hunchback (hb) and Krüppel (Kr), contain homologies with the zinc-finger DNA-binding motif, although their mode of action in the early embryo is unknown. Here we report that both of the proteins encoded by these genes possess sequence-specific DNA-binding activities, which indicates that they might regulate gene expression at the level of transcription. The binding sites of the hb gene product are related by a 10-base pair (bp) consensus sequence, G/A C/C ATAAAAAA, whereas the binding sites of the Kr gene product share a distinct 10-bp motif, AACGGGTTAA. It is possible that the hb and Kr proteins cooperatively regulate gene expression, because they are expressed in broad, overlapping gradients in the early embryo. We also provide evidence that the on/off periodicity of the pair-rule gene even-skipped (eve) involves the interaction of the hb and Kr proteins with defined eve promoter elements.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Gene Expression
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Metalloproteins / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Repressor Proteins*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • Kr protein, Drosophila
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Metalloproteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • hb protein, Drosophila
  • DNA
  • Zinc