Superactivation of Pax6-mediated transactivation from paired domain-binding sites by dna-independent recruitment of different homeodomain proteins.
The Pax6 genes encode evolutionary conserved transcription factors that act high up in the regulatory hierarchy controlling development of central organs such as the eyes and the central nervous system. These proteins contain two DNA-binding domains. The N-terminal paired domain is separated from a paired-type homeodomain by a linker region, and a transactivation domain is located C-terminal to the homeodomain. Vertebrate Pax6 genes express a paired-less isoform of Pax6 (Pax6DeltaPD) from an internal start codon in the coding region between the paired domain and homeodomain. We now provide evidence for an interaction between the full-length isoform and Pax6DeltaPD, which enhances the transactivation activity of Pax6 from paired domain-binding sites. The paired-like homeodomain protein Rax behaved similarly to Pax6DeltaPD. Both Pax6DeltaPD and Rax bound to the homeodomain of Pax6 in vitro in the absence of specific DNA binding. Coimmunoprecipitation experiments following cotransfection confirmed the existence of complexes between Pax6 and Pax6DeltaPD, Pax6 and Rax, and Pax6DeltaPD and Rax in vivo. Interestingly, the C-terminal subdomain of the paired domain and the homeodomain can interact with each other. The paired domain can also interact with itself. Surprisingly, GST pull-down assays revealed that the homeodomains of such diverse proteins as Chx10, Six3, Lhx2, En-1, Prep1, Prox1, and HoxB1 could all bind to Pax6, and several of these enhanced Pax6-mediated transactivation upon coexpression. Since many homeodomain proteins are coexpressed with Pax6 in several tissues during development, our results indicate the existence of novel regulatory interactions that may be important for fine tuning of gene regulation.