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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 10;107(32):14199-204. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1002494107. Epub 2010 Jul 26.

Immune-related zinc finger gene ZFAT is an essential transcriptional regulator for hematopoietic differentiation in blood islands.

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Department of Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, and Center for Advanced Molecular Medicine, Fukuoka University, Fukuoka 814-0180, Japan.


TAL1 plays pivotal roles in vascular and hematopoietic developments through the complex with LMO2 and GATA1. Hemangioblasts, which have a differentiation potential for both endothelial and hematopoietic lineages, arise in the primitive streak and migrate into the yolk sac to form blood islands, where primitive hematopoiesis occurs. ZFAT (a zinc-finger gene in autoimmune thyroid disease susceptibility region/an immune-related transcriptional regulator containing 18 C(2)H(2)-type zinc-finger domains and one AT-hook) was originally identified as an immune-related transcriptional regulator containing 18 C(2)H(2)-type zinc-finger domains and one AT-hook, and is highly conserved among species. ZFAT is thought to be a critical transcription factor involved in immune-regulation and apoptosis; however, developmental roles for ZFAT remain unknown. Here we show that Zfat-deficient (Zfat(-/-)) mice are embryonic-lethal, with impaired differentiation of hematopoietic progenitor cells in blood islands, where ZFAT is exactly expressed. Expression levels of Tal1, Lmo2, and Gata1 in Zfat(-/-) yolk sacs are much reduced compared with those of wild-type mice, and ChIP-PCR analysis revealed that ZFAT binds promoter regions for these genes in vivo. Furthermore, profound reduction in TAL1, LMO2, and GATA1 protein expressions are observed in Zfat(-/-) blood islands. Taken together, these results suggest that ZFAT is indispensable for mouse embryonic development and functions as a critical transcription factor for primitive hematopoiesis through direct-regulation of Tal1, Lmo2, and Gata1. Elucidation of ZFAT functions in hematopoiesis might lead to a better understanding of transcriptional networks in differentiation and cellular programs of hematopoietic lineage and provide useful information for applied medicine in stem cell therapy.

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