C/EBP is a sequence-specific DNA binding protein that regulates gene expression in certain mammalian cells. The region of the C/EBP polypeptide required for specific recognition of DNA is related in amino acid sequence to other regulatory proteins, including the Fos and Jun transforming proteins. It has been proposed that these proteins bind DNA via a bipartite structural motif, consisting of a dimerization interface termed the "leucine zipper" and a DNA contact surface termed the "basic region." An evaluation of the properties of conserved amino acids within the basic region of 11 deduced protein sequences, coupled with the observation that they are located at an invariant distance from the leucine zipper, has led to the formulation of a "scissors-grip" model for DNA binding. The architectural features of this model are well suited for interaction with directly abutted, dyadsymmetric DNA sequences. Data supportive of the model were obtained with chemical probes of protein:DNA complexes.
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