Modulation of the activity of multiple transcriptional activation domains by the DNA binding domains mediates the synergistic action of Sox2 and Oct-3 on the fibroblast growth factor-4 enhancer

D C Ambrosetti, H R Schöler, L Dailey, C Basilico
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2000 July 28, 275 (30): 23387-97
Fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-4 gene expression in the inner cell mass of the blastocyst and in EC cells requires the combined activity of two transcriptional regulators, Sox2 and Oct-3, which bind to adjacent sites on the FGF-4 enhancer DNA and synergistically activate transcription. Sox2 and Oct-3 bind cooperatively to the enhancer DNA through their DNA-binding, high mobility group and POU domains, respectively. These two domains, however, are not sufficient to activate transcription. We have analyzed a number of Sox2 and Oct-3 deletion mutants to identify the domains within each protein that contribute to the activity of the Sox2 x Oct-3 complex. Within Oct-3, we have identified two activation domains, the N-terminal AD1 and the C-terminal AD2, that play a role in the activity of the Sox2 x Oct-3 complex. AD1 also displays transcriptional activation functions in the absence of Sox2 while AD2 function was only detected within the Sox2 x Oct-3 complex. In Sox2, we have identified three activation domains within its C terminus: R1, R2, and R3. R1 and R2 can potentiate weak activation by Sox2 in the absence of Oct-3 but their deletion has no effect on the Sox2 x Oct-3 complex. In contrast, R3 function is only observed when Sox2 is complexed with Oct-3. In addition, analysis of Oct-1/Oct-3 chimeras indicates that the Oct-3 homeodomain also plays a critical role in the formation of a functional Sox2 x Oct-3 complex. Our results are consistent with a model in which the synergistic action of Sox2 and Oct-3 results from two major processes. Cooperative binding of the factors to the enhancer DNA, mediated by their binding domains, stably tethers each factor to DNA and increases the activity of intrinsic activation domains within each protein. Protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions then may lead to reciprocal conformational changes that expose latent activation domains within each protein. These findings define a mechanism that may also be utilized by other Sox x POU protein complexes in gene activation.

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