Differential DNA sequence recognition is a determinant of specificity in homeotic gene action

Stephen C. Ekker, Doris P. Von Kessler, Philip A. Beachy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


The homeotic genes of Drosophila encode transcriptional regulatory proteins that specify distinct segment identities. Previous studies have implicated the homeodomain as a major determinant of biological specificity within these proteins, but have not established the physical basis of this specificity. We show here that the homeodomains encoded by the Ultrabithorax and Deformed homeotic genes bind optimally to distinct DNA sequences and have mapped the determinants responsible for differential recognition. We further show that relative transactivation by these two proteins in a simple in vivo system can differ by nearly two orders of magnitude. Such differences in DNA sequence recognition and target activation provide a biochemical basis for at least part of the biological specificity of homeotic gene action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4059-4072
Number of pages14
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1992


  • DNA recognition
  • Deformed gene
  • Development
  • Homeodomain
  • Ultrabithorax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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