MS-Based Approaches Enable the Structural Characterization of Transcription Factor/DNA Response Element Complex

Biomolecules. 2019 Sep 26;9(10):535. doi: 10.3390/biom9100535.


The limited information available on the structure of complexes involving transcription factors and cognate DNA response elements represents a major obstacle in the quest to understand their mechanism of action at the molecular level. We implemented a concerted structural proteomics approach, which combined hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX), quantitative protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid cross-linking (XL), and homology analysis, to model the structure of the complex between the full-length DNA binding domain (DBD) of Forkhead box protein O4 (FOXO4) and its DNA binding element (DBE). The results confirmed that FOXO4-DBD assumes the characteristic forkhead topology shared by these types of transcription factors, but its binding mode differs significantly from those of other members of the family. The results showed that the binding interaction stabilized regions that were rather flexible and disordered in the unbound form. Surprisingly, the conformational effects were not limited only to the interface between bound components, but extended also to distal regions that may be essential to recruiting additional factors to the transcription machinery. In addition to providing valuable new insights into the binding mechanism, this project provided an excellent evaluation of the merits of structural proteomics approaches in the investigation of systems that are not directly amenable to traditional high-resolution techniques.

Keywords: DNA; FOXO4; cross-linking; molecular modeling; protein; protein-nucleic acid cross-linking; trans-dichlorodiamineplatinum(II), hydrogen-deuterium exchange; transcription factor; transplatin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Deuterium Exchange Measurement
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Structure
  • Response Elements
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA