Coupling of folding and DNA-binding in the bZIP domains of Jun-Fos heterodimeric transcription factor

Kenneth L. Seldeen, Caleb B. McDonald, Brian J. Deegan, Amjad Farooq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


In response to mitogenic stimuli, the heterodimeric transcription factor Jun-Fos binds to the promoters of a diverse array of genes involved in critical cellular responses such as cell growth and proliferation, cell cycle regulation, embryogenic development and cancer. In so doing, Jun-Fos heterodimer regulates gene expression central to physiology and pathology of the cell in a specific and timely manner. Here, using the technique of isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), we report detailed thermodynamics of the bZIP domains of Jun-Fos heterodimer to synthetic dsDNA oligos containing the TRE and CRE consensus promoter elements. Our data suggest that binding of the bZIP domains to both TRE and CRE is under enthalpic control and accompanied by entropic penalty at physiological temperatures. Although the bZIP domains bind to both TRE and CRE with very similar affinities, the enthalpic contributions to the free energy of binding to CRE are more favorable than TRE, while the entropic penalty to the free energy of binding to TRE is smaller than CRE. Despite such differences in their thermodynamic signatures, enthalpy and entropy of binding of the bZIP domains to both TRE and CRE are highly temperature-dependent and largely compensate each other resulting in negligible effect of temperature on the free energy of binding. From the plot of enthalpy change versus temperature, the magnitude of heat capacity change determined is much larger than that expected from the direct association of bZIP domains with DNA. This observation is interpreted to suggest that the basic regions in the bZIP domains are largely unstructured in the absence of DNA and only become structured upon interaction with DNA in a coupled folding and binding manner. Our new findings are rationalized in the context of 3D structural models of bZIP domains of Jun-Fos heterodimer in complex with dsDNA oligos containing the TRE and CRE consensus sequences. Taken together, our study demonstrates that enthalpy is the major driving force for a key protein-DNA interaction pertinent to cellular signaling and that protein-DNA interactions with similar binding affinities may be accompanied by differential thermodynamic signatures. Our data corroborate the notion that the DNA-induced protein structural changes are a general feature of the bZIP family of transcription factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2008



  • Basic leucine zipper bZIP
  • DNA promoter elements TRE and CRE
  • Isothermal titration calorimetry
  • Protein-DNA thermodynamics
  • Transcription factors Jun and Fos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology

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