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J Cell Sci. 2004 Jan 26;117(Pt 3):465-76.

The Yin Yang-1 (YY1) protein undergoes a DNA-replication-associated switch in localization from the cytoplasm to the nucleus at the onset of S phase.

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  • 1Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4370, USA.


The essential Yin Yang-1 gene (YY1) encodes a ubiquitous, conserved, multifunctional zinc-finger transcription factor in animals. The YY1 protein regulates initiation, activation, or repression of transcription from a variety of genes required for cell growth, development, differentiation, or tumor suppression, as well as from genes in some retroviruses and DNA viruses. Among the specific functions attributed to YY1 is a role in cell-cycle-specific upregulation of the replication-dependent histone genes. The YY1 protein binds to the histone alpha element, a regulatory sequence found in all replication-dependent histone genes. We therefore examined the abundance, DNA-binding activity and localization of the YY1 protein throughout the cell cycle in unperturbed, shake-off-synchronized Chinese hamster ovary and HeLa cells. We found that, whereas the DNA-binding activity of YY1 increased dramatically early in S phase, the YY1 mRNA and protein levels did not. YY1 changed subcellular distribution patterns during the cell cycle, from mainly cytoplasmic at G1 to mainly nuclear at early and middle S phase, then back to primarily cytoplasmic later in S phase. Nuclear accumulation of YY1 near the G1/S boundary coincided with both an increase in YY1 DNA-binding activity and the coordinate up-regulation of the replication-dependent histone genes. The DNA synthesis inhibitor aphidicolin caused a nearly complete loss of nuclear YY1, whereas addition of caffeine or 2-aminopurine to aphidicolin-treated cells restored both DNA synthesis and YY1 localization in the nucleus. These findings reveal a mechanism by which YY1 localization is coupled to DNA synthesis and responsive to cell-cycle signaling pathways. Taken together, our results provide insight into how YY1 might participate in the cell-cycle control over a variety of nuclear events required for cell division and proliferation.

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