Cloning and characterization of the mouse ret finger protein (rfp), a B box zinc finger protein

Tongyu Cao, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


An important question in biology is to understand the role of specific gene products in regulating embryogenesis and cellular differentiation. Many of the regulatory proteins possess specific motifs, such as the homeodomain, basic helix-loop-helix structure, zinc finger, and leucine zipper. These sequence motifs participate in specific protein-DNA, protein-RNA, and protein-protein interactions, and are important for the function of these regulatory proteins. The human rfp (ret finger protein) belongs to a novel zinc finger protein family, the B box zinc finger family. Most of the B box proteins, including rfp, have a conserved tripartite motif, consisting of two novel zinc fingers (the RING finger and the B box) and a coiled-coil domain. Interestingly, a fusion protein between the tripartite motif of rfp and the tyrosine kinase domain of c-ret has transforming activity. In this study, we examined the expression of rfp during mouse development, and characterized the role of the tripartite motif in rfp function. We cloned the mouse rfp cDNA, which shares a 98.4% homology with the human sequence at amino acid level. Such strikingly high degree of homology indicates the high evolutionary pressure on the conservation of the sequence, suggesting that rfp may have an important function. Using the somatic cell hybrid system, we assigned the rfp gene to mouse chromosome 13 and human chromosome 6. Rfp transcripts and protein were ubiquitous in day 10.5-13.5 mouse embryos; however, they were restricted in adult mice, with the highest level of expression in the testis. Rfp expression in the testis is detected only in late pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids. In both embryos and spermatogenic cells, rfp protein was distributed within cell nuclei in a punctate pattern, similar to the PODs (PML oncogenic domains) observed with another B box protein, PML. In cultured mammalian cells, we found that rfp was indeed co-localized to the PODs with PML. Using the yeast two-hybrid system, we showed that the rfp could specifically interact with PML, and that the interaction was dependent on the distal portion of the rfp coiled-coil domain. We also showed that rfp could form homodimers, and both the B box and coiled-coil domain were required for proper dimerization. It seems that the proximal portion of the coiled-coil domain provides the interacting interface, while the B box zinc finger orients the coil and maintains the correct structure of the whole molecule. Our data are consistent with the zinc-binding property and structural analysis of the B box. The RING finger seems to be involved in rfp nuclear localization through interaction with other proteins. We believe that homodimerization and interaction with PML are important for the normal interaction of rfp during development and differentiation. In addition, rfp homodimerization may also be essential for the oncogenic activation of the rfp-ret fusion protein.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Cao, Tongyu, "Cloning and characterization of the mouse ret finger protein (rfp), a B box zinc finger protein" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9626086.