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Dev Biol. 2007 May 15;305(2):714-25. Epub 2007 Mar 3.

Transcriptional repressor and activator activities of SMA-9 contribute differentially to BMP-related signaling outputs.

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Department of Biology, Queens College, and Biochemistry PhD Program, the Graduate School and University Center, the City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11367, USA.


In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the BMP-related growth factor DBL-1 regulates body size and male tail morphogenesis via a conserved receptor/Smad signaling pathway. Smads are transcription factors, but rely on transcription cofactors for appropriate regulation of target genes in response to TGF-beta- and BMP-related signals. In the DBL-1 pathway, sma-9 encodes multiple zinc finger transcription factors homologous to Drosophila Schnurri, which functions in Dpp/BMP signaling. We have studied the molecular functions of SMA-9 as a model for transcription cofactor-dependent regulation of gene expression. Using SMA-9 fusions to known transcriptional activators and repressors, we demonstrate that SMA-9 acts primarily as a transcriptional repressor in body size regulation in vivo. In contrast, both activator and repressor functions contribute to male tail patterning. We further show that different SMA-9 regions have intrinsic repressor and activator activities using a yeast transcription assay. We use microarray analysis to identify transcriptional target genes in body size regulation. Consistent with the importance of repression in mediating body size regulation, we find more repressed genes than activated genes in this pool. Finally, we identify five transcriptional targets with body size and/or male tail patterning phenotypes, including transcription factors related to Runx and fos and signaling molecules related to hedgehog and patched. Our results thus suggest that SMA-9 products function differentially as transcriptional repressors and activators in DBL-1/BMP pathway regulated body size and male tail morphogenesis.

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