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Open Badges Protein family review

The AP-2 family of transcription factors

Dawid Eckert, Sandra Buhl, Susanne Weber, Richard Jäger and Hubert Schorle*

Author Affiliations

Department of Developmental Pathology, Institute of Pathology, Sigmund-Freud Strasse 25, 53125 Bonn, Germany

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Genome Biology 2005, 6:246  doi:10.1186/gb-2005-6-13-246

Published: 28 December 2005


The AP-2 family of transcription factors consists of five different proteins in humans and mice: AP-2α, AP-2β, AP-2γ, AP-2δ and AP-2ε. Frogs and fish have known orthologs of some but not all of these proteins, and homologs of the family are also found in protochordates, insects and nematodes. The proteins have a characteristic helix-span-helix motif at the carboxyl terminus, which, together with a central basic region, mediates dimerization and DNA binding. The amino terminus contains the transactivation domain. AP-2 proteins are first expressed in primitive ectoderm of invertebrates and vertebrates; in vertebrates, they are also expressed in the emerging neural-crest cells, and AP-2α-/- animals have impairments in neural-crest-derived facial structures. AP-2β is indispensable for kidney development and AP-2γ is necessary for the formation of trophectoderm cells shortly after implantation; AP-2α and AP-2γ levels are elevated in human mammary carcinoma and seminoma. The general functions of the family appear to be the cell-type-specific stimulation of proliferation and the suppression of terminal differentiation during embryonic development.