PROSITE documentation PDOC51032
AP2/ERF domain profile


Ethylene is an endogenous plant hormone that influences many aspects of plant growth and development. Some defense related genes that are induced by ethylene were found to contain a cis-regulatory element known as the Ethylene-Responsive Element (ERE) [1]. Sequence analysis on various ERE regions identified a short motif rich in G/C nucleotides, the GCC-box, essential for the response to ethylene. This short motif is recognized by a family of transcrition factors, the ERE binding factors (ERF) [2,3].

ERF proteins contain an about 60 amino acid region which is also found in the APETALA2 (AP2) protein, the AP2/ERF domain [4]. It has been shown in various proteins that the AP2/ERF domain is necessary and sufficient to bind GCC-box [5].

The structure of the AP2/ERF domain in complex with the target DNA has been solved (see <PDB:1GCC>) [6]. The structure resemble that of bacteriophage integrases and the methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD) (see <PDOC50982>): a three-stranded β-sheet and an α helice almost parallel to the β-sheet. It contacts DNA via Arg and Trp residues located in the β-sheet.

Some proteins known to contain an AP2/ERF domain are listed below:

  • Arabidopsis thaliana ERF1 to 6.
  • Tobacco ethylene-responsive element-binding proteins (EREBPs), homologues of ERFs proteins.
  • Arabidopsis thaliana AP2 protein. It regulates meristeme identity, floral organ specification and seed coat development.
  • Arabidopsis thaliana C-repeat/dehydration-responsive element (DRE) binding factor 1 (CBF1 or DREB1) and DREB2. They bind a GCC-box-like element found in dehydratation responsive element. Binding to this element mediates cold-inducible transcription.
  • Arabidopsis thaliana and maize abscisic acid (ABA)-insensitive 4 (ABI4) proteins. They bind to a GCC-box-like element found in ABA-responsive genes.
  • Octadecanoid-derivative responsive catharenthus AP2-domain (ORCA2) protein. It binds a GCC-box-like element in the jasmonate responsive element of Str promoter.
  • Tomato Pto-interacting proteins 4 to 6 (Pti4 to Pti6). Pti5 and 6 bind a GCC-box-like element in regulatory regions of various pathogenesis-related (PR) genes.
  • Trichodesmium erythraeum, Tetrahymena thermophila, Enterobacteria phage RB49 and bacteriophage Felix 01 HNH endonucleases. HNH endonucleases are homing endonucleases that move extensively via lateral gene transfer [7].

The profile we developed covers the whole AP2/ERF domain.

Last update:

November 2004 / First entry.


Technical section

PROSITE method (with tools and information) covered by this documentation:

AP2_ERF, PS51032; AP2/ERF domain profile  (MATRIX)


1AuthorsBroglie K.E. Biddle P. Cressman R. Broglie R.
TitleFunctional analysis of DNA sequences responsible for ethylene regulation of a bean chitinase gene in transgenic tobacco.
SourcePlant Cell 1:599-607(1989).
PubMed ID2535512

2AuthorsOhme-Takagi M. Shinshi H.
SourcePlant Cell 7:173-182(1995).

3AuthorsFujimoto S.Y. Ohta M. Usui A. Shinshi H. Ohme-Takagi M.
TitleArabidopsis ethylene-responsive element binding factors act as transcriptional activators or repressors of GCC box-mediated gene expression.
SourcePlant Cell 12:393-404(2000).
PubMed ID10715325

4AuthorsWeigel D.
TitleThe APETALA2 domain is related to a novel type of DNA binding domain.
SourcePlant Cell 7:388-389(1995).
PubMed ID7773013

5AuthorsHao D. Ohme-Takagi M. Sarai A.
TitleUnique mode of GCC box recognition by the DNA-binding domain of ethylene-responsive element-binding factor (ERF domain) in plant.
SourceJ. Biol. Chem. 273:26857-26861(1998).
PubMed ID9756931

6AuthorsAllen M.D. Yamasaki K. Ohme-Takagi M. Tateno M. Suzuki M.
TitleA novel mode of DNA recognition by a beta-sheet revealed by the solution structure of the GCC-box binding domain in complex with DNA.
SourceEMBO J. 17:5484-5496(1998).
PubMed ID9736626

7AuthorsMagnani E. Sjolander K. Hake S.
TitleFrom endonucleases to transcription factors: evolution of the AP2 DNA binding domain in plants.
SourcePlant Cell 16:2265-2277(2004).
PubMed ID15319480

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