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J Biol Chem. 2009 Dec 4;284(49):34167-78. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.066084. Epub 2009 Sep 28.

Identification of direct thyroid hormone response genes reveals the earliest gene regulation programs during frog metamorphosis.

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  • 1Section on Molecular Morphogenesis, Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development, Program in Cellular Regulation and Metabolism, Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Thyroid hormone (T3) is essential for normal development and organ function throughout vertebrates. Its effects are mainly mediated through transcriptional regulation by T3 receptor (TR). The identification and characterization of the immediate early, direct target genes are thus of critical importance in understanding the molecular pathways induced by T3. Unfortunately, this has been hampered by the difficulty to study gene regulation by T3 in uterus-enclosed mammalian embryos. Here we used Xenopus metamorphosis as a model for vertebrate postembryonic development to identify direct T3 response genes in vivo. We took advantage of the ability to easily induce metamorphosis with physiological levels of T3 and to carry out microarray analysis in Xenopus laevis and genome-wide sequence analysis in Xenopus tropicalis. This allowed us to identify 188 up-regulated and 249 down-regulated genes by T3 in the absence of new protein synthesis in whole animals. We further provide evidence to show that these genes contain functional TREs that are bound by TR in tadpoles and that their promoters are regulated by TR in vivo. More importantly, gene ontology analysis showed that the direct up-regulated genes are enriched in categories important for transcriptional regulation and protein degradation-dependent signaling processes but not DNA replication. Our findings thus revealed the existence of interesting pathways induced by T3 at the earliest step of metamorphosis.

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