Transcription factors are proteins that recognize specific DNA sequences and affect local transcriptional processes. They are the primary means by which all organisms control specific gene expression. Understanding which DNA sequences a particular transcription factor recognizes provides important clues into the set of genes that they regulate and, through this, their potential biological functions. Insights may be gained through homology searches and genetic means. However, these approaches can be misleading, especially when comparing distantly related organisms or in cases of complicated transcriptional regulation. In this work, we used a biochemistry-based approach to determine the spectrum of DNA sequences specifically bound by the Thermus thermophilus
HB8 TetR-family transcription factor TTHB023. The consensus sequence 5′–(a/c)Y(g/t)A(A/C)YGryCR(g/t)T(c/a)R(g/t)–3′ was found to have a nanomolar binding affinity with TTHB023. Analyzing the T. thermophilus
HB8 genome, several TTHB023 consensus binding sites were mapped to the promoters of genes involved in fatty acid biosynthesis. Notably, some of these were not identified previously through genetic approaches, ostensibly given their potential co-regulation by the Thermus thermophilus
HB8 TetR-family transcriptional repressor TTHA0167. Our investigation provides additional evidence supporting the usefulness of a biochemistry-based approach for characterizing putative transcription factors, especially in the case of cooperative regulation.
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