The serendipity (sry) delta zinc finger protein controls bicoid gene expression during Drosophila melanogaster oogenesis. In addition, sry delta mutants display various zygotic phenotypes, ranging from abnormal embryogenesis to sex-biased adult lethality. We report here that sry delta is a sequence-specific transcriptional activator. A single sry delta consensus binding site (SDCS), in either orientation, is sufficient to promote transcription activation in cell culture, and multiple SDCSs mediate a strong synergistic activation, reflecting the cooperativity of sry delta binding to DNA. Further, several lines of evidence strongly suggest that sry delta binds to DNA as a dimer. While each of three point mutations located in the third zinc finger of sry delta drastically reduces its DNA binding affinity, a fourth mutation, located in the N-terminal region of the protein, specifically affects the cooperativity of DNA binding. This mutation reveals the functional importance of a putative Cys(2)/Cys(2) zinc finger motif of a novel type, located outside the DNA binding domain. A systematic deletion analysis shows that interaction between this proposed Cys(2)/Cys(2) motif and a classical Cys(2)/His(2) zinc finger mediates homodimerization, which is required for DNA binding cooperativity.
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