Core-binding factors (CBFs) are a small family of heterodimeric transcription factors that play critical roles in hematopoiesis and in the development of bone, stomach epithelium, and proprioceptive neurons. Mutations in CBF genes are found in leukemias, bone disorders, and gastric cancer. CBFs consist of a DNA-binding CBF alpha subunit and a non-DNA-binding CBF beta subunit. DNA binding and heterodimerization with CBF beta are mediated by the Runt domain in CBF alpha. Here we report an alanine-scanning mutagenesis study of the Runt domain that targeted amino acids identified by structural studies to reside at the DNA or CBF beta interface, as well as amino acids mutated in human disease. We determined the energy contributed by each of the DNA-contacting residues in the Runt domain to DNA binding both in the absence and presence of CBF beta. We propose mechanisms by which mutations in the Runt domain found in hematopoietic and bone disorders affect its affinity for DNA.
Core-binding factors (CBFs) are a small family of heterodimeric transcription factors that play critical roles in several developmental pathways and in human disease. Mutations in CBF genes are found in leukemias, bone disorders, and gastric cancers. CBFs consist of a DNA-binding CBF alpha subunit (Runx1, Runx2, or Runx3) and a non-DNA-binding CBF beta subunit. CBF alpha binds DNA in a sequence-specific manner, whereas CBF beta enhances DNA binding by CBF alpha. Both DNA binding and heterodimerization with CBF beta are mediated by a single domain in the CBF alpha subunits known as the "Runt domain." We analyzed the energetic contribution of amino acids in the Runx1 Runt domain to heterodimerization with CBF beta. We identified two energetic "hot spots" that were also found in a similar analysis of CBF beta (Tang, Y.-Y., Shi, J., Zhang, L., Davis, A., Bravo, J., Warren, A. J., Speck, N. A., and Bushweller, J. H. (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 39579-39588). The importance of the hot spot residues for Runx1 function was demonstrated in in vivo transient transfection assays. These data refine the structural analyses and further our understanding of the Runx1-CBF beta interface.
We have determined the structure, at 2.6 A resolution, of the AML1 (Runx1) Runt domain--CBF beta--DNA ternary complex, the most common target for mutations in human leukemia. The structure reveals that the Runt domain DNA binding mechanism is unique within the p53 family of transcription factors. The extended C-terminal 'tail' and 'wing' elements adopt a specific DNA-bound conformation that clamps the phosphate backbone between the major and minor grooves of the distorted B-form DNA recognition site. Furthermore, the extended 'tail' mediates most of the NF-kappa B/Rel-like base-specific contacts in the major groove. The structure clearly explains the molecular basis for the loss of DNA binding function of the Runt domain--CBF beta complex as a consequence of the human disease-associated mutations in leukemogenesis and cleidocranial dysplasia.