Open Biology Journal
FoxD4L1 is a forkhead transcription factor that expands the neural ectoderm by down-regulating genes that promote the onset of neural differentiation and up-regulating genes that maintain proliferative neural precursors in an immature state. We previously demonstrated that binding of Grg4 to an Eh-1 motif enhances the ability of FoxD4L1 to down-regulate target neural genes but does not account for all of its repressive activity. Herein we analyzed the protein sequence for additional interaction motifs and secondary structure. Eight conserved motifs were identified in the C-terminal region of fish and frog proteins. Extending the analysis to mammals identified a high scoring motif downstream of the Eh-1 domain that contains a tryptophan residue implicated in protein-protein interactions. In addition, secondary structure prediction programs predicted an α-helical structure overlapping with amphibian-specific Motif 6 inXenopus, and similarly located α-helical structures in other vertebrate FoxD proteins. We tested functionality of this site by inducing a glutamine-to-proline substitution expected to break the predicted α-helical structure; this significantly reduced FoxD4L1’s ability to repress zic3and irx1. Because this mutation does not interfere with Grg4 binding, these results demonstrate that at least two regions, the Eh-1 motif and a more C-terminal predicted α-helical/Motif 6 site, additively contribute to repression. In the N-terminal region we previously identified a 14 amino acid motif that is required for the up-regulation of target genes. Secondary structure prediction programs predicted a short β-strand separating two acidic domains. Mutant constructs show that the β-strand itself is not required for transcriptional activation. Instead, activation depends upon a glycine residue that is predicted to provide sufficient flexibility to bring the two acidic domains into close proximity. These results identify conserved predicted motifs with secondary structures that enable FoxD4L1 to carry out its essential functions as both a transcriptional repressor and activator of neural genes.
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Hawley, R., Yuzhong, C., Riz, I., & Zhang, C. (2012). An integrated bioinformatics and computational biology approach identifies new bh3-only protein candidates. Open Biology Journal, 5, 6-16.