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J Biol Chem. 2003 Mar 7;278(10):8269-78. Epub 2002 Dec 16.

The homeodomain protein Barx2 promotes myogenic differentiation and is regulated by myogenic regulatory factors.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The homeobox protein Barx2 is expressed in both smooth and skeletal muscle and is up-regulated during differentiation of skeletal myotubes. Here we use antisense-oligonucleotide inhibition of Barx2 expression in limb bud cell culture to show that Barx2 is required for myotube formation. Moreover, overexpression of Barx2 accelerates the fusion of MyoD-positive limb bud cells and C2C12 myoblasts. However, overexpression of Barx2 does not induce ectopic MyoD expression in either limb bud cultures or in multipotent C3H10T1/2 mesenchymal cells, and does not induce fusion of C3H10T1/2 cells. These results suggest that Barx2 acts downstream of MyoD. To test this hypothesis, we isolated the Barx2 gene promoter and identified DNA regulatory elements that might control Barx2 expression during myogenesis. The proximal promoter of the Barx2 gene contained binding sites for several factors involved in myoblast differentiation including MyoD, myogenin, serum response factor, and myocyte enhancer factor 2. Co-transfection experiments showed that binding sites for both MyoD and serum response factor are necessary for activation of the promoter by MyoD and myogenin. Taken together, these studies indicate that Barx2 is a key regulator of myogenic differentiation that acts downstream of muscle regulatory factors.

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