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J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 28;286(43):37732-40. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.242826. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

Transcription factor Zic2 inhibits Wnt/β-catenin protein signaling.

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Department of Human Genetics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


The Zic transcription factors play critical roles during embryonic development. Mutations in the ZIC2 gene are associated with human holoprosencephaly, but the etiology is still unclear. Here, we report a novel function for ZIC2 as a regulator of β-catenin·TCF4-mediated transcription. We show that ZIC2 can bind directly to the DNA-binding high mobility group box of TCF4 via its zinc finger domain and inhibit the transcriptional activity of the β-catenin·TCF4 complex. However, the binding of TCF4 to DNA was not affected by ZIC2. Zic2 RNA injection completely inhibited β-catenin-induced axis duplication in Xenopus embryos and strongly blocked the ability of β-catenin to induce expression of known Wnt targets in animal caps. Moreover, Zic2 knockdown in transgenic Xenopus Wnt reporter embryos led to ectopic Wnt signaling activity mainly at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary. Together, our results demonstrate a previously unknown role for ZIC2 as a transcriptional regulator of the β-catenin·TCF4 complex.

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