Amoutzias G, Veron A, Weiner J, Robinson-Rechavi M, Bornberg-Bauer E, Oliver S, Robertson D
One billion years of bZIP transcription factor evolution: conservation and change in dimerization and DNA-binding site specificity
Molecular Biology and Evolution, 24:827-835, 2007

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The genomic era has revealed that the large repertoire of observed animal phenotypes is dependent on changes in the expression patterns of a finite number of genes, which are mediated by a plethora of transcription factors (TFs) with distinct specificities. The dimerization of TFs can also increase the complexity of a genetic regulatory network manifold, by combining a small number of monomers into dimers with distinct functions. Therefore, studying the evolution of these dimerizing TFs is vital for understanding how complexity increased during animal evolution. We focus on the second largest family of dimerizing TFs, the basic-region leucine zipper (bZIP), and infer when it expanded and how bZIP DNA-binding and dimerization functions evolved during the major phases of animal evolution. Specifically, we classify the metazoan bZIPs into 19 families and confirm the ancient nature of at least 13 of these families, predating the split of the cnidaria. We observe fixation of a core dimerization network in the last common ancestor of protostomes–deuterostomes. This was followed by an expansion of the number of proteins in the network, but no major dimerization changes in interaction partners, during the emergence of vertebrates. In conclusion, the bZIPs are an excellent model with which to understand how DNA binding and protein interactions of TFs evolved during animal evolution.