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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032004. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Transcriptional activity and nuclear localization of Cabut, the Drosophila ortholog of vertebrate TGF-β-inducible early-response gene (TIEG) proteins.

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Departamento de Genética, Facultad CC Biológicas, Universidad de Valencia, Burjasot, Spain.



Cabut (Cbt) is a C(2)H(2)-class zinc finger transcription factor involved in embryonic dorsal closure, epithelial regeneration and other developmental processes in Drosophila melanogaster. Cbt orthologs have been identified in other Drosophila species and insects as well as in vertebrates. Indeed, Cbt is the Drosophila ortholog of the group of vertebrate proteins encoded by the TGF-ß-inducible early-response genes (TIEGs), which belong to Sp1-like/Krüppel-like family of transcription factors. Several functional domains involved in transcriptional control and subcellular localization have been identified in the vertebrate TIEGs. However, little is known of whether these domains and functions are also conserved in the Cbt protein.


To determine the transcriptional regulatory activity of the Drosophila Cbt protein, we performed Gal4-based luciferase assays in S2 cells and showed that Cbt is a transcriptional repressor and able to regulate its own expression. Truncated forms of Cbt were then generated to identify its functional domains. This analysis revealed a sequence similar to the mSin3A-interacting repressor domain found in vertebrate TIEGs, although located in a different part of the Cbt protein. Using β-Galactosidase and eGFP fusion proteins, we also showed that Cbt contains the bipartite nuclear localization signal (NLS) previously identified in TIEG proteins, although it is non-functional in insect cells. Instead, a monopartite NLS, located at the amino terminus of the protein and conserved across insects, is functional in Drosophila S2 and Spodoptera exigua Sec301 cells. Last but not least, genetic interaction and immunohistochemical assays suggested that Cbt nuclear import is mediated by Importin-α2.


Our results constitute the first characterization of the molecular mechanisms of Cbt-mediated transcriptional control as well as of Cbt nuclear import, and demonstrate the existence of similarities and differences in both aspects of Cbt function between the insect and the vertebrate TIEG proteins.

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