The P3A2 regulatory protein interacts with specific sites in the control region of the CyIIIa actin gene. Previous studies showed that this interaction is required to confine expression of a CyIIIa.CAT fusion to the aboral ectoderm, the embryonic territory in which CyIIIa is normally utilized. P3A2 also binds specifically to similar target sites located in the regulatory region of the SM50 gene, which is expressed only in skeletogenic mesenchyme lineages. The P3A2 factor was purified by affinity chromatography from nuclear extracts of 24 h sea urchin embryos, and partial peptide sequences were used to isolate a cDNA clone encoding the complete protein. There are no significant similarities between P3A2 and any other protein in existing sequence data bases. P3A2 thus includes a novel type of DNA-binding domain. To examine the differential utilization of P3A2 in CyIIIa and SM50 genes, we measured the specific affinity of this protein for the various target sites in the regulatory DNAs of each gene, and identified the core target site sequences. The stability of P3A2 complexes formed with SM50 target sites is 50–100 times greater than that of the complexes formed with CyIIIa target sites, though the factor binds to very similar core sequence elements. P3A2 is one of at least twelve different proteins whose interaction with CyIIIa regulatory DNA is required for correct developmental expression. The results reported demonstrate that it might be possible to purify most of these regulatory proteins, or any other specific DNA-binding proteins of the sea urchin embryo, by using the simple procedures described for P3A2.

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