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DNA Cell Biol. 1999 Feb;18(2):157-64.

Hepatocyte nuclear factor 3 (winged helix domain) activates trefoil factor gene TFF1 through a binding motif adjacent to the TATAA box.

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Division of Molecular Genetics, Institute of Anthropology and Human Genetics, University of Tübingen, Germany.


The winged helix transcription factors HNF-3/FKH (forkhead homologs) activate endodermal-derived and acute-phase gene expression and control gut development in Drosophila. Trefoil factor family (TFFs) peptides are vertebrate products secreted by mucin-producing epithelial cells of the gastrointestinal tract involved in restitution and repair of the mucosa. They are positively regulated in ulcerative and neoplastic conditions. We describe a consensus sequence in human and rodent TFF promoters close to the TATAA box showing striking similarity to the binding site of the HNF-3/FKH family. In gel retardation assays, HNF-3 alpha and beta bound predominantly to the site in TFF1 (formerly pS2) and, to a lesser extent, to the sites in TFF2 or TFF3. Mutations generated in this motif severely impaired transcription of TFF1 reporter genes. Cotransfection with expression vectors of HNF-3alpha and beta, but not the related HFH 11A and B, specifically activated the wild-type TFF1 reporter genes. Activation of endogenous expression of TFF1 by HNF-3 alpha and beta gene products was more than 1000 fold in the pancreatic cell line Capan-2 and fivefold in the gastric cell line MKN-45, whereas the intestinal cell lines HUTU 80 and HT-29 displayed no effect. Thus, HNF-3/FKH factors contribute causally to cell-specific regulation of TFF genes and may explain the acute-phase response of TFF peptides.

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