The mammalian ME1 gene encodes a non-tissue-specific, helix-loop-helix transcription factor that is enriched in morphogenetically active regions during development. Regulation of mouse ME1 gene expression is controlled by a novel initiator (ME1 Inr) that promotes transcription from the center of a 13 bp poly(dA) tract. We show here that the ME1 Inr autonomously directs initiation from the poly(dA) tract both in vitro and in vivo. This transcription was dependent upon two protein complexes; MBPα, which associated directly with the poly(dA) tract, and MBPβ, which introduced an ~60°bend immediately downstream of the poly(dA) tract. The MBPα and MBPβ binding sites were strikingly conserved in homologous DNA from several mammalian species and the frog Xenopus laevis. These results suggest that the ME1 Inr constitutes a robust nucleation site that promotes transcription initiation in the absence of conventional promoter elements.
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