TBP is involved in DNA melting (double strand separation) by bending the DNA by 80° (the AT-rich sequence to which it binds facilitates easy melting). The TBP is an unusual protein in that it binds the minor groove using a β sheet.
Another distinctive feature of TBP is a long string of glutamines in the N-terminus of the protein. This region modulates the DNA binding activity of the C-terminus, and modulation of DNA-binding affects the rate of transcription complex formation and initiation of transcription. Mutations that expand the number of CAG repeats encoding this polyglutamine tract, and thus increase the length of the polyglutamine string, are associated with spinocerebellar ataxia 17, a neurodegenerative disorder classified as a polyglutamine disease.
TBP is a subunit of the eukaryotic transcription factorTFIID. TFIID is the first protein to bind to DNA during the formation of the pre-initiation transcription complex of RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II). Binding of TFIID to the TATA box in the promoter region of the gene initiates the recruitment of other factors required for RNA Pol II to begin transcription. Some of the other recruited transcription factors include TFIIA, TFIIB, and TFIIF. Each of these transcription factors is formed from the interaction of many protein subunits, indicating that transcription is a heavily regulated process.
TBP is also a component of RNA polymerase I and RNA polymerase III and is therefore involved in transcription initiation by all three RNA polymerases. In specific cell types or on specific promoters TBP can be replaced by one of several TBP-related factors.
When TBP binds to a TATA box within the DNA, it distorts the DNA by inserting amino acid side-chains between base pairs, partially unwinding the helix, and doubly kinking it. The distortion is accomplished through a great amount of surface contact between the protein and DNA. TBP binds with the negatively charged phosphates in the DNA backbone through positively charged lysine and arginine amino acid residues. The sharp bend in the DNA is produced through projection of four bulky phenylalanine residues into the minor groove. As the DNA bends, its contact with TBP increases, thus enhancing the DNA-protein interaction.
The strain imposed on the DNA through this interaction initiates melting, or separation, of the strands. Because this region of DNA is rich in adenine and thymine residues, which base-pair through only two hydrogen bonds, the DNA strands are more easily separated. Separation of the two strands exposes the bases and allows RNA polymerase II to begin transcription of the gene.
TBP's C-terminus composes of a helicoidal shape that (incompletely) complements the T-A-T-A region of DNA. It is interesting to note that this incompleteness allows DNA to be passively bent on binding.
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