Electrostatic control of half-site spacing preferences by the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein CREB

Jin Kim Montclare, Leslie S. Sloan, Alanna Schepartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Basic region leucine zipper (bZIP) proteins represent a class of transcription factors that bind DNA using a simple, dimeric, α-helical recognition motif. The cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) is a member of the CREB/ATF subfamily of bZIP proteins. CREB discriminates effectively in vivo and in vitro between the 10 bp cAMP response element (ATGACGTCAT, CRE) and the 9 bp activating protein 1 site (ATGACTCAT, AP-1). Here we describe an alanine scanning mutagenesis study designed to identify those residues within the CREB bZIP element that control CRE/AP-1 specificity. We find that the preference of CREB for the CRE site is controlled in a positive and negative way by acidic and basic residues in the basic, spacer and zipper segments. The CRE/AP-1 specificity of CREB is increased significantly by four glutamic acid residues located at positions 24, 28, 35 and 41; glutamic acid residues at positions 10 and 48 contribute in a more modest way. Specificity is decreased significantly by two basic residues located at positions 21 and 23; basic residues at positions 14, 18, 33 and 34 and V17 contribute in a more modest way. All of the residues that influence specificity significantly are located on the solvent-exposed face of the protein-DNA complex and likely participate in interactions between and among proteins, not between protein and DNA. The finding that the CRE/AP-1 specificity of CREB is dictated by the presence or absence of charged residues has interesting implications for how transcription factors seek and selectively bind sequences within genomic DNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3311-3319
Number of pages9
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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