Spatially Precise DNA Bending Is an Essential Activity of the Sox2 Transcription Factor

Paola Scaffidi, Marco E. Bianchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sox proteins, a subclass of high mobility group box proteins, govern cell fate decisions by acting both as classical transcription factors and architectural components of chromatin. We aimed to demonstrate that the DNA bending activity of Sox proteins is essential to regulate gene expression. We focused on mouse Sox2, which participates in the transactivation of the Fgf4 (fibroblast growth factor 4) gene in the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. We generated six substitutions in the high mobility group box of Sox2. One mutant showed a reduced DNA bending activity on the Fgf4 enhancer (46° instead of 80°), which resulted in more powerful transactivation compared with the wild type protein. We then selected two single-base mutations in the Fgf4 enhancer that make the DNA less bendable by the Sox2 protein. Again, a different DNA bend (0° and 42° instead of 80°) resulted in a different activation of transcription, but in this case reduced bending corresponded to decreased transcription. We found that the opposite effect on transcription of similar DNA bending angles is due to a 20° difference in the relative orientation of the DNA bends, proving that a correct three-dimensional geometry of enhanceosome complexes is necessary to promote transcription.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47296-47302
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - Dec 14 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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