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J Cell Physiol. 2012 Apr;227(4):1501-11. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22866.

Role of SF-1 and DAX-1 during differentiation of P19 cells by retinoic acid.

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Department of Biochemistry, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, USA.


Retinoic acid (RA) is critical for embryonic development and cellular differentiation. Previous work in our laboratory has shown that blocking the RA-dependent increase in pre-β cell leukemia transcription factors (PBX) mRNA and protein levels in P19 cells prevents endodermal and neuronal differentiation. Dosage-sensitive sex reversal, adrenal hypoplasia critical region, on chromosome X, gene 1 (DAX-1) and steroidogenic factor (SF-1) were found by microarray analysis to be regulated by PBX in P19 cells. To determine the roles of DAX-1 and SF-1 during RA-dependent differentiation, P19 cells that inducibly express either FLAG-DAX-1 or FLAG-SF-1 were prepared. Unexpectedly, overexpression of DAX-1 had no effect on the RA-induced differentiation of P19 cells to either endodermal or neuronal cells. However, SF-1 overexpression prevented the RA-dependent loss of OCT-4, DAX-1 and the increase in COUP-TFI, COUP-TFII, and ETS-1 mRNA levels during the commitment stages of both endodermal and neuronal differentiation. Surprisingly, continued expression of SF-1 for 7 days caused the RA-independent loss of OCT-4 protein and RA-dependent loss of SSEA-1 expression. Despite the loss of well-characterized pluripotency markers, these cells did not terminally differentiate into either endodermal or neuronal cells. Instead, the cells gained the expression of many steroidogenic enzymes with a pattern consistent with adrenal cells. Finally, we found evidence for a feedback loop in which PBX reduces SF-1 mRNA levels while continued SF-1 expression blocks the RA-dependent increase in PBX levels. Taken together, these data demonstrate that SF-1 plays a dynamic role during the differentiation of P19 cells and potentially during early embryogenesis.

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