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Sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins are among the most important classes of gene regulatory proteins, controlling changes in transcription that underlie many aspects of biology. In this work, we identify a transcriptional regulator from the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans that binds DNA specifically but has no detectable homology with any previously described DNA- or RNA-binding protein. This protein, named White-Opaque Regulator 3 (Wor3), regulates white-opaque switching, the ability of C. albicans to switch between two heritable cell types. We demonstrate that ectopic overexpression of WOR3 results in mass conversion of white cells to opaque cells and that deletion of WOR3 affects the stability of opaque cells at physiological temperatures. Genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation of Wor3 and gene expression profiling of a wor3 deletion mutant strain indicate that Wor3 is highly integrated into the previously described circuit regulating white-opaque switching and that it controls a subset of the opaque transcriptional program. We show by biochemical, genetic, and microfluidic experiments that Wor3 binds directly to DNA in a sequence-specific manner, and we identify the set of cis-regulatory sequences recognized by Wor3. Bioinformatic analyses indicate that the Wor3 family arose more recently in evolutionary time than most previously described DNA-binding domains; it is restricted to a small number of fungi that include the major fungal pathogens of humans. These observations show that new families of sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins may be restricted to small clades and suggest that current annotations--which rely on deep conservation--underestimate the fraction of genes coding for transcriptional regulators.


Matthew B Lohse, Aaron D Hernday, Polly M Fordyce, Liron Noiman, Trevor R Sorrells, Victor Hanson-Smith, Clarissa J Nobile, Joseph L DeRisi, Alexander D Johnson. Identification and characterization of a previously undescribed family of sequence-specific DNA-binding domains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013 May 7;110(19):7660-5

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PMID: 23610392

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