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Simple biochemical features underlie transcriptional activation domain diversity and dynamic, fuzzy binding to Mediator

By Adrian L. Sanborn, Benjamin T. Yeh, Jordan T Feigerle, Cynthia V. Hao, Raphael J. L. Townshend, Erez Lieberman Aiden, Ron O. Dror, Roger D. Kornberg

Posted 18 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.18.423551

Gene activator proteins comprise distinct DNA-binding and transcriptional activation domains (ADs). Because few ADs have been described, we tested domains tiling all yeast transcription factors for activation in vivo and identified 150 ADs. By mRNA display, we showed that 73% of ADs bound the Med15 subunit of Mediator, and that binding strength was correlated with activation. AD-Mediator interaction in vitro was unaffected by a large excess of free activator protein, pointing to a dynamic mechanism of interaction. Structural modeling showed that ADs interact with Med15 without shape complementarity ("fuzzy" binding). ADs shared no sequence motifs, but mutagenesis revealed biochemical and structural constraints. Finally, a neural network trained on AD sequences accurately predicted ADs in human proteins and in other yeast proteins, including chromosomal proteins and chromatin remodeling complexes. These findings solve the longstanding enigma of AD structure and function and provide a rationale for their role in biology.

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