The discovery that the AP-1 family of enhancer binding factors includes a complex of the cellular Fos (cFos) and cellular Jun (cJun) proteins established a direct and important link between oncogenesis and transcriptional regulation. Homodimeric cJun protein synthesized in vitro is capable of binding selectively to AP-1 recognition sites, whereas the cFos polypeptide is not. When cotranslated, the cFos and cJun proteins can form a stable, heterodimeric complex with the DNA binding properties of AP-1/cJun. The related proteins Jun B and vJun are also able to form DNA binding complexes with cFos. Directed mutagenesis of the cFos protein reveals that a leucine repeat structure is required for binding to cJun, in a manner consistent with the proposed function of the "leucine zipper." A novel domain adjacent to, but distinct from, the leucine repeat of cFos is required for DNA binding by cFos-cJun heterodimers. Thus experimental evidence is presented that leucine repeats can mediate complex formation between heterologous proteins and that promotes further understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the function of two proto-oncogene products.
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