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J Biol Chem. 2008 Dec 5;283(49):34168-77. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M803532200. Epub 2008 Oct 15.

Oct25 represses transcription of nodal/activin target genes by interaction with signal transducers during Xenopus gastrulation.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.


The balance between differentiation signals and signals maintaining the undifferentiated state of embryonic cells ensures proper formation of germ layers. The nodal/activin pathway represents one of the major signaling chains responsible for the differentiation of embryonic cells into mesodermal and endodermal germ layers, while Oct4 is one of the major players in the maintenance of an undifferentiated state. Here we show that Oct25, an Oct4 homologue in Xenopus, antagonizes the activity of nodal/activin signaling by inhibiting the transcription of its target genes, Gsc and Mix2. The inhibitory effect is achieved by forming repression complexes on the promoters of Gsc and Mix2 between Oct25 and the signal transducers of the nodal/activin pathway, WBSCR11, FAST1, and Smad2. We have analyzed the significance of the Oct binding site for its inhibitory effect within the Gsc promoter. Albeit VP16-Oct25 fusion protein demonstrated a stimulating effect and EVE-Oct25 revealed a repression effect on an artificial reporter that is composed of eight repeats of Oct binding motifs, both fusions, like wild-type Oct25, inhibited mesendoderm formation and the activity of Gsc and Mix2 promoters. These results suggest that the regulatory effect of Oct25 on the expression of Gsc and Mix2 is mediated by specific protein/protein interactions. Furthermore, we demonstrate that histone deacetylase activities are not required for the inhibitory effect of Oct25. Our results provide a novel view in that Oct25 controls the nodal/activin pathway and thus maintains the undifferentiated state of embryonic cells in preventing them from premature differentiation.

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