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Molecular and Cellular Biology


Geisel School of Medicine


In the Neurospora circadian system, the White Collar complex (WCC) of WC-1 and WC-2 drives transcription of the circadian pacemaker gene frequency (frq), whose gene product, FRQ, as a part of the FRQ-FRH complex (FFC), inhibits its own expression. The WCC is also the principal Neurospora photoreceptor; WCC-mediated light induction of frq resets the clock, and all acute light induction is triggered by WCC binding to promoters of light-induced genes. However, not all acutely light-induced genes are also clock regulated, and conversely, not all clock-regulated direct targets of WCC are light induced; the structural determinants governing the shift from WCC's dark circadian role to its light activation role are poorly described. We report that the DBD region (named for being defective in binding DNA), a basic region in WC-1 proximal to the DNA-binding zinc finger (ZnF) whose function was previously ascribed to nuclear localization, instead plays multiple essential roles assisting in DNA binding and mediating interactions with the FFC. DNA binding for light induction by the WCC requires only WC-2, whereas DNA binding for circadian functions requires WC-2 as well as the ZnF and DBD motif of WC-1. The data suggest a means by which alterations in the tertiary and quaternary structures of the WCC can lead to its distinct functions in the dark and in the light.