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The influence of various regions of the FOXP2 sequence on its structure and DNA binding function

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Monare Thulo, Megan A Rabie, Naadira Pahad, Heather L. Donald, Ashleigh A Blane, Cardon M. Perumal, Carlos Penedo, Sylvia Fanucchi

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FOX proteins are a superfamily of transcription factors which share a DNA-binding domain referred to as the forkhead domain. Our focus is on the FOXP subfamily members, which are involved in language and cognition amongst other things. The FOXP proteins contain a conserved zinc finger and a leucine zipper motif in addition to the forkhead domain. The remainder of the sequence is predicted to be unstructured and includes an acidic C-terminal tail. In the present study, we aim to investigate how both the structured and unstructured regions of the sequence cooperate so as to enable FOXP proteins to perform their function. We do this by studying the effect of these regions on both oligomerisation and DNA binding. Structurally, the FOXP proteins appear to be comparatively globular with a high proportion of helical structure. The proteins multimerise via the leucine zipper, and the stability of the multimers is controlled by the unstructured interlinking sequence including the acid rich tail. FOXP2 is more compact than FOXP1, has a greater propensity to form higher order oligomers, and binds DNA with stronger affinity. We conclude that while the forkhead domain is necessary for DNA binding, the affinity of the binding event is attributable to the leucine zipper, and the unstructured regions play a significant role in the specificity of binding. The acid rich tail forms specific contacts with the forkhead domain which may influence oligomerisation and DNA binding, and therefore the acid rich tail may play an important regulatory role in FOXP transcription.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberBSR20202128
Number of pages13
JournalBioscience Reports
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

    Research areas

  • Transcription factors, FOXP, Forkhead, Leucine zipper, Oligomerization, Transcription regulation

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