Functional and Genetic Characterization of the Oligomerization and DNA Binding Properties of the Drosophila Doublesex Proteins
Scott E. Erdman, Hui-Ju Chen, Kenneth C. Burtis


The doublesex (dsx) gene of Drosophila melanogaster encodes both male-specific (DSXM) and female-specific (DSXF) polypeptides, which are required for normal differentiation of numerous sexually dimorphic somatic traits. The DSX polypeptides are transcription factors and have been shown previously to bind through a zinc finger-like domain to specific sites in an enhancer regulating sex-specific expression of yolk protein genes. We have determined the consensus target sequence for this DNA binding domain to be a palindromic sequence NNACTAAGAATGTNNTC composed of two half-sites around a central (A/T) base pair. As predicted by the symmetric nature of this site, we have found that the DSX proteins exist as dimers in vivo and have mapped two independent dimerization domains by the yeast two-hybrid method; one in the non-sex-specific amino-terminal region of the protein and one that includes the partially sex-specific carboxy-terminal domains of both the male and female polypeptides. We have further identified a missense mutation that eliminates dsx function in female flies, and shown that the same mutation prevents dimerization of DSXF in the yeast two-hybrid system, indicating a critical role for dimerization in dsx function in vivo.

  • Received June 10, 1996.
  • Accepted September 11, 1996.