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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 14;279(20):21206-16. Epub 2004 Mar 10.

The fetoprotein transcription factor (FTF) gene is essential to embryogenesis and cholesterol homeostasis and is regulated by a DR4 element.

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  • 1Département de biologie médicale, Faculté de médecine, Le Centre de recherche en cancérologie de l'Université Laval, L'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, Québec G1R 2J6, Canada.


The fetoprotein transcription factor (FTF) gene was inactivated in the mouse, with a lacZ gene inserted inframe into exon 4. LacZ staining of FTF+/- embryos shows that the mFTF gene is activated at initial stages of zygotic transcription. FTF gene activity is ubiquitous at the morula and blastocyst stages and then follows expression patterns indicative of multiple FTF functions in fetal development. FTF-/- embryos die at E6.5-7.5, with features typical of visceral endoderm dysfunction. Adult FTF+/- mice are hypocholesterolemic, and express liver FTF at about 40% of the normal level. Overexpression of liver FTF in transgenic mice indicates in vivo that FTF is an activator of CYP7A1. However, CYP7A1 expression is increased in FTF+/- liver. Gene expression profiles indicate that higher CYP7A1 expression is caused by attenuated liver cell stress signaling. Diet experiments support a model where FTF is quenched both by activated c-Jun, and by SHP as a stronger feedback mechanism to repress CYP7A1. A DR4 element is conserved in the FTF gene promoter and activated by LXR-RXR and TR-RXR, qualifying the FTF gene as a direct metabolic sensor. Liver FTF increases in rats treated with thyroid hormone or a high cholesterol diet. The FTF DR4 element tightens functional links between FTF and LXRalpha in cholesterol homeostasis and can explain transient surges of FTF gene activities during development and FTF levels lower than predicted in FTF+/- liver. The FTF-lacZ mouse establishes a central role for FTF in developmental, nutritive, and metabolic functions from early embryogenesis through adulthood.

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