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The Non-continuum Nature of Eukaryotic Transcriptional Regulation

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Protein Reviews

Part of the book series: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology ((PROTRE,volume 1371))

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Abstract

Eukaryotic transcription factors are versatile mediators of specificity in gene regulation. This versatility is achieved through mutual specification by context-specific DNA binding on the one hand, and identity-specific protein-protein partnerships on the other. This interactivity, known as combinatorial control, enables a repertoire of complex transcriptional outputs that are qualitatively disjoint, or non-continuum, with respect to binding affinity. This feature contrasts starkly with prokaryotic gene regulators, whose activities in general vary quantitatively in step with binding affinity. Biophysical studies on prokaryotic model systems and more recent investigations on transcription factors highlight an important role for folded state dynamics and molecular hydration in protein/DNA recognition. Analysis of molecular models of combinatorial control and recent literature in low-affinity gene regulation suggest that transcription factors harbor unique conformational dynamics that are inaccessible or unused by prokaryotic DNA-binding proteins. Thus, understanding the intrinsic dynamics involved in DNA binding and co-regulator recruitment appears to be a key to understanding how transcription factors mediate non-continuum outcomes in eukaryotic gene expression, and how such capability might have evolved from ancient, structurally conserved counterparts.

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Acknowledgements

G.M.K.P is supported by NSF grant MCB 2028902 and NIH grants GM137160 and HL155178.

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The author declares no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Gregory M. K. Poon .

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Poon, G.M.K. (2021). The Non-continuum Nature of Eukaryotic Transcriptional Regulation. In: Atassi, M.Z. (eds) Protein Reviews. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology(), vol 1371. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/5584_2021_618

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