The Fork head family is a rapidly growing family of transcription factors which share a common structurally related DNA binding domain the fork head domain. This domain is similar to DNA binding domains of other proteins not included among the fork heads, which collectively have been named Winged helix proteins. Fork head factors have been found in species from yeast to humans with the exception of green plants. Although winged helix proteins have been described in prokaryotes, no fork head factors have yet been found in any prokaryotic organism. Fork head factors bind DNA as monomers and regulate transcription on their own, either as activators or repressors of transcription. In some cases, they can also serve as transcriptionally inert docking factors for other proteins loaded with transcriptional regulatory domains. Fork head factors have been found to be involved in many biological roles. In vertebrates, most members of this family have roles in embryonic development, but other functions have a lso been described, such as circadian rhythm regulation, control of cell cycle, cell growth, and life span, etc. Here, we review the current state of the knowledge about this evolutionarily successful family. The ever growing amount of bibliography published on fork head factors does not permit the exhaustive discussion of all published work. We have rather focused on the most relevant aspects of this growing family of transcription factors.
Keywords: Fork Head Transcription Factors, DNA Binding, Nuclear Localization, Transcription, Localization Signals NLS, FOXN1, Danio rerio, Mammals, Gallus gallus