Members of the small Maf family (MafK, MafF, and MafG) are basic region leucine zipper (bZip) proteins that can function as transcriptional activators or repressors. The dimer compositions of their DNA binding forms determine whether the small Maf family proteins activate or repress transcription. Using a yeast two-hybrid screen with a GAL4-MafK fusion protein, we have identified two novel bZip transcription factors, Bach1 and Bach2, as heterodimerization partners of MafK. In addition to a Cap'n'collar-type bZip domain, these Bach proteins possess a BTB domain which is a protein interaction motif; Bach1 and Bach2 show significant similarity to each other in these regions but are otherwise divergent. Whereas expression of Bach1 appears ubiquitous, that of Bach2 is restricted to monocytes and neuronal cells. Bach proteins bind in vitro to NF-E2 binding sites, recognition elements for the hematopoietic transcription factor NF-E2, by forming heterodimers with MafK. Furthermore, a DNA binding complex that contained MafK as well as Bach2 or a protein related closely to Bach2 was found to be present in mouse brain cells. Bach1 and Bach2 function as transcription repressors in transfection assays using fibroblast cells, but they function as a transcriptional activator and repressor, respectively, in cultured erythroid cells. The results suggest that members of the Bach family play important roles in coordinating transcription activation and repression by MafK.
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