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Development. 1998 Dec;125(24):4909-17.

GATA transcription factors as potentiators of gut endoderm differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Gene inactivation studies have shown that members of the GATA family of transcription factors are critical for endoderm differentiation in mice, flies and worms, yet how these proteins function in such a conserved developmental context has not been understood. We use in vivo footprinting of mouse embryonic endoderm cells to show that a DNA-binding site for GATA factors is occupied on a liver-specific, transcriptional enhancer of the serum albumin gene. GATA site occupancy occurs in gut endoderm cells at their pluripotent stage: the cells have the potential to initiate tissue development but they have not yet been committed to express albumin or other tissue-specific genes. The GATA-4 isoform accounts for about half of the nuclear GATA-factor-binding activity in the endoderm. GATA site occupancy persists during hepatic development and is necessary for the activity of albumin gene enhancer. Thus, GATA factors in the endoderm are among the first to bind essential regulatory sites in chromatin. Binding occurs prior to activation of gene expression, changes in cell morphology or functional commitment that would indicate differentiation. We suggest that GATA factors at target sites in chromatin may generally help potentiate gene expression and tissue specification in metazoan endoderm development.

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