Physical and functional sensitivity of zinc finger transcription factors to redox change

Xiaosu Wu, Nanette H. Bishopric, Daryl J. Bischer, Brian J. Murphy, Keith A. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


Redox regulation of DNA-binding proteins through the reversible oxidation of key cysteine sulfhydryl groups has been demonstrated to occur in vitro for a range of transcription factors. The direct redox regulation of DNA binding has not been described in vivo, possibly because most protein thiol groups are strongly buffered against oxidation by the highly reduced intracellular environment mediated by glutathione, thioredoxin, and associated pathways. For this reason, only accessible protein thiol groups with high thiol- disulfide oxidation potentials are likely to be responsive to intracellular redox changes. In this article, we demonstrate that zinc finger DNA-binding proteins, in particular members of the Sp-1 family, appear to contain such redox-sensitive -SH groups. These proteins displayed a higher sensitivity to redox regulation than other redox-responsive factors both in vitro and in vivo. This effect was reflected in the hyperoxidative repression of transcription from promoters with essential Sp-1 binding sites, including the simian virus 40 early region, glycolytic enzyme, and dihydrofolate reductase genes. Promoter analyses implicated the Sp-1 sites in this repression. Non- Sp-1-dependent redox-regulated genes including metallothionein and heme oxygenase were induced by the same hyperoxic stress. The studies demonstrate that cellular redox changes can directly regulate gene expression in vivo by determining the level of occupancy of strategically positioned GC-binding sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1046
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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