Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 73, Issue 5–6, pp 325–336 | Cite as

Two Polymorphic Residues Account for the Differences in DNA Binding and Transcriptional Activation by NF-κB Proteins Encoded by Naturally Occurring Alleles in Nematostella vectensis

  • Francis S. Wolenski
  • Sushil Chandani
  • Derek J. Stefanik
  • Ning Jiang
  • Emma Chu
  • John R. Finnerty
  • Thomas D. GilmoreEmail author


The NF-κB family of transcription factors is activated in response to many environmental and biological stresses, and plays a key role in innate immunity across a broad evolutionary expanse of animals. A simple NF-κB pathway is present in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, an important model organism in the phylum Cnidaria. Nematostella has previously been shown to have two naturally occurring NF-κB alleles (Nv-NF-κB-C and Nv-NF-κB-S) that encode proteins with different DNA-binding and transactivation abilities. We show here that polymorphic residues 67 (Cys vs. Ser) and 269 (Ala vs. Glu) play complementary roles in determining the DNA-binding activity of the NF-κB proteins encoded by these two alleles and that residue 67 is primarily responsible for the difference in their transactivation ability. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Nv-NF-κB-S is the derived allele, consistent with its restricted geographic distribution. These results define polymorphic residues that are important for the DNA-binding and transactivating activities of two naturally occurring variants of Nv-NF-κB. The implications for the appearance of the two Nv-NF-κB alleles in natural populations of sea anemones are discussed.


NF-κB Nematostella Polymorphism Evolution DNA binding Transactivation 



This research was supported by grant MCB-0920461 from the National Science Foundation (J.R.F., T.D.G.) and ARRA supplement CA047763-22S3 (to T.D.G.). F.S.W. was supported by predoctoral grant by the Superfund Basic Research Program at Boston University 5 P42 ES07381, and F.S.W. and D.J.S. were supported by Warren-McLeod Fellowships. N.J. was supported by funds from the Boston University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. We thank Tristan Lubinski and Lauren Friedman for help with bioinformatic analyses and helpful discussions.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 3270 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francis S. Wolenski
    • 1
  • Sushil Chandani
    • 1
  • Derek J. Stefanik
    • 1
  • Ning Jiang
    • 1
  • Emma Chu
    • 1
  • John R. Finnerty
    • 1
  • Thomas D. Gilmore
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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