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Dev Biol. 2005 Mar 1;279(1):252-67.

LvGroucho and nuclear beta-catenin functionally compete for Tcf binding to influence activation of the endomesoderm gene regulatory network in the sea urchin embryo.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Developmental Cell and Molecular Biology, Duke University, LSRC Building, Room B362, Research Drive, Durham NC 27708, USA.


In the sea urchin embryo, specification of the endomesoderm is accomplished by the activity of a network of regulatory genes in the vegetal hemisphere, called the endomesoderm gene regulatory network (GRN). The activation of this network is mediated primarily through the activity of the Wnt pathway, though details of pathway activation remain unclear. To gain further insight into control of endomesoderm GRN activation, we have identified a sea urchin homologue of the co-repressor Groucho (LvGroucho) that has been shown to antagonize beta-catenin/Tcf activation complexes during Wnt signaling in other systems. Groucho functions by recruiting the histone deacetylase Rpd3 to the DNA template via interaction with site-specific transcription factors, resulting in localized chromatin condensation and transcriptional silencing. Our results show that the LvGroucho protein localizes to all nuclei throughout embryonic development. Interaction assays demonstrate that LvGroucho interacts with Tcf via both the Q and the WD domains of the protein. LvGroucho interacts with Tcf to antagonize the expression of key endomesoderm regulatory genes. Assays demonstrate that LvGroucho and n beta-catenin functionally compete for binding to Tcf as a major mechanism by which the Tcf-control switch is regulated. Functional analysis of the N-terminal AES197 domain of LvGroucho shows that it is sufficient to recapitulate the function of full-length LvGroucho. This finding strongly supports the conclusion that the effects of LvGro overexpression are due primarily to its interactions with Tcf and not other Groucho interacting partners, since Tcf is the only protein present in the sea urchin known to interact with AES197. Because the Q domain is unable to bind Rpd3, it was expected to behave as a dominant negative LvGroucho. Unexpectedly, overexpression of the Q domain gave functional results similar to LvGroucho and the AES197 domain. This is the first evidence for an inherent repressive function for the Q domain alone. Together, our results indicate that LvGroucho functionally competes with beta-catenin for Tcf binding, and this competitive mechanism regulates one of the earliest steps in the initiation of the sea urchin endomesoderm GRN.

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