Biological & pharmaceutical bulletin

Analysis of cysteine and histidine residues required for zinc response of the transcription factor human MTF-1.

PMID 25832641


Metal responsive element (MRE)-binding transcription factor-1 (MTF-1) is a zinc finger (ZF) transcription factor that plays a key role in heavy metal homeostasis by regulating relevant genes in response to metals. MTF-1 is known to be activated by heavy metals such as Zn and Cd, but the mechanism of activation remains unclear. In the present study, Cys and His residues of human MTF-1 (hMTF-1), some of which may be involved in interaction with metals or with each other, were screened for their contribution to Zn-dependent transcription. To avoid poor induction ratios of previous transfection assays, we re-examined experimental conditions to establish an assay able to correctly detect Zn-responsive transcription. Using this assay, a series of Cys and/or His substitution mutants were analyzed over the entire hMTF-1 molecule. In five out of the six ZFs (ZF1 to ZF5), Cys mutations that disrupt the ZF structure abolished response to Zn. Of these, ZF5 was shown for the first time to be essential for Zn-responsive transcription, despite it being unnecessary for Zn-induced DNA binding. These results indicate that Zn activation of hMTF-1 involves an additional process besides induction of DNA binding activity. Our assay also confirmed the importance of Cys in the acidic activation domain, as well as those in the C-terminal Cys cluster, implicated in transcription in other studies. The identified Cys residues might contribute to metal response of hMTF-1 through direct metal binding and/or intramolecular interactions, analysis of which will be helpful in understanding the mechanism of metal response.