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KRAB-containing zinc-finger repressor proteins

DOI: 10.1186/gb-2003-4-10-231

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Zinc-finger proteins containing the Krüppel-associated box (KRAB-containing proteins) were discovered in 1991 by Bellefroid et al. [1]. They make up approximately one third (290) of the 799 different zinc-finger proteins present in the human genome, and as a result, this group of proteins is the largest single family of transcriptional regulators in mammals. Many genes encoding KRAB-containing proteins are arranged in clusters, but others occur individually throughout the genome. The best characterized cluster is on 19q, containing 148 genes (51% of the family) within a region close to 19q13 [2]; other clusters are in centromeric and telomeric regions of other chromosomes. In particular, members of the family containing SCAN domains (see below) are clustered on 3p21-22, 6p21-22, 16p13.3, and 17p12-13. Non-clustered genes encoding KRAB-containing proteins are scattered over the other chromosomes, with about half on autosomes and half on sex chromosomes. Although the expression of genes of other clustered families, such as homeobox genes, is coregulated, it remains to be determined whether a comparable mechanism operates for genes encoding KRAB-containing proteins, and more studies are needed to show how chromosome organization influences the expression patterns of this family.As shown in Figure 1, KRAB-containing proteins are characterized by the presence of a DNA-binding domain made up of between 4 and over 30 zinc-finger motifs and a KRAB domain. The KRAB domain, located near the amino terminus of the protein, consists of one or both of the KRAB A box and the KRAB B box (see below). Other domains, such as the SCAN domain, are found in a small subset of members of the family [2,3] (Table 1). The two boxes of the KRAB domain are always encoded by individual exons separated by introns of variable sizes. This exon-intron composition allows the generation of different products by alternative splicing. In fact, zinc-finger proteins that contain only a KRAB A domain, for


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