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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 21;106(29):12049-54. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812894106. Epub 2009 Jul 7.

DNA-binding specificity and in vivo targets of Caenorhabditis elegans nuclear factor I.

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Department of Biology, Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280, USA.

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  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 8;106(36):15514.


The conserved nuclear factor I (NFI) family of transcription factors is unique to animals and essential for mammalian development. The Caenorhabditis elegans genome encodes a single NFI family member, whereas vertebrate genomes encode 4 distinct NFI protein subtypes (A, B, C, and X). NFI-1-deficient worms exhibit abnormalities, including reduced lifespan, defects in movement and pharyngeal pumping, and delayed egg-laying. To explore the functional basis of these phenotypes, we sought to comprehensively identify NFI-1-bound loci in C. elegans. We first established NFI-1 DNA-binding specificity using an in vitro DNA-selection strategy. Analysis yielded a consensus motif of TTGGCA(N)(3)TGCCAA, which occurs 586 times in the genome, a 100-fold higher frequency than expected. We next asked which sites were occupied by NFI-1 in vivo by performing chromatin immunoprecipitation of NFI-1 followed by microarray hybridization. Only 55 genomic locations were identified, an unexpectedly small target set. In vivo NFI-1 binding sites tend to be upstream of genes involved in core cellular processes, such as chromatin remodeling, mRNA splicing, and translation. Remarkably, 59 out of 70 (84%) of the C. briggsae orthologs of the identified targets contain conserved NFI binding sites in their promoters. These experiments provide a foundation for understanding how NFI-1 is recruited to unexpectedly few in vivo sites to perform its developmental functions, despite a vast over-representation of its binding motif.

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