Novel RNA-binding properties of the MTG chromatin regulatory proteins
Background: The myeloid translocation gene (MTG) proteins are non-DNA-binding transcriptional regulators capable of interacting with chromatin modifying proteins. As a consequence of leukemia-associated chromosomal translocations, two of the MTG proteins, MTG8 and MTG16, are fused to the DNA-binding domain of AML1, a transcriptional activator crucial for hematopoiesis. The AML1-MTG fusion proteins, as the wild type MTGs, display four conserved homology regions (NHR1-4) related to the Drosophila nervy protein. Structural protein analyses led us to test the hypothesis that specific MTG domains may mediate RNA binding. Results: By using an RNA-binding assay based on synthetic RNA homopolymers and a panel of MTG deletion mutants, here we show that all the MTG proteins can bind RNA. The RNA-binding properties can be traced to two regions: the Zinc finger domains in the NHR4, which mediate Zinc-dependent RNA binding, and a novel short basic region (SBR) upstream of the NHR2, which mediates Zinc-independent RNA binding. The two AML1-MTG fusion proteins, retaining both the Zinc fingers domains and the SBR, also display RNA-binding properties. Conclusion: Evidence has been accumulating that RNA plays a role in transcriptional control. Both wild type MTGs and chimeric AML1-MTG proteins display in vitro RNA-binding properties, thus opening new perspectives on the possible involvement of an RNA component in MTG-mediated chromatin regulation.