The precise control of developmental and regulatory processes in the cell requires accurate recognition of specific DNA sites. For genomes as large as that of humans, single-molecule-DNA binders have difficulties accurately and specifically recognizing the intended targets. Natural transcription factors overcome these difficulties by forming non-covalent complexes on the DNA with other transcription factors. These cooperative complexes overcome the difficulties of single-molecule transcription factors, allowing specific, combinatorial control of a range of transcriptional targets. Artificial transcription factors have been designed to take advantage of this technique of cooperative assembly, facilitating future studies in whole genome targeting. In contrast to a simple model of component independence, cooperative complexes as a whole often display slightly altered DNA specificity from what would be expected from the analysis of their separate components. The true sequence specificity of cooperative complexes, and thus their presumed in vivo targets, have to be experimentally probed. A number of techniques, such as the cognate site identity array, now allow for rapid, high-throughput determination of the specificity of cooperative complexes. © 2008 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
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