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Dev Biol. 2012 Aug 15;368(2):273-82. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.05.031. Epub 2012 Jun 2.

Yin-Yang1 is required for epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and regulation of Nodal signaling during mammalian gastrulation.

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Department of Veterinary and Animal Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 661 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01003, United States.


The ubiquitously expressed Polycomb Group protein Yin-Yang1 (YY1) is believed to regulate gene expression through direct binding to DNA elements found in promoters or enhancers of target loci. Additionally, YY1 contains diverse domains that enable a plethora of protein-protein interactions, including association with the Oct4/Sox2 pluripotency complex and Polycomb Group silencing complexes. To elucidate the in vivo role of YY1 during gastrulation, we generated embryos with an epiblast specific deletion of Yy1. Yy1 conditional knockout (cKO) embryos initiate gastrulation, but both primitive streak formation and ingression through the streak is severely impaired. These streak descendants fail to repress E-Cadherin and are unable to undergo an appropriate epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Intriguingly, overexpression of Nodal and concomitant reduction of Lefty2 are observed in Yy1 cKO embryos, suggesting that YY1 is normally required for proper Nodal regulation during gastrulation. Furthermore, definitive endoderm is specified but fails to properly integrate into the outer layer. Although anterior neuroectoderm is specified, mesoderm production is severely restricted. We show that YY1 directly binds to the Lefty2 locus in E7.5 embryos and that pharmacological inhibition of Nodal signaling partially restores mesoderm production in Yy1 cKO mutant embryos. Our results reveal critical requirements for YY1 during several important developmental processes, including EMT and regulation of Nodal signaling. These results are the first to elucidate the diverse role of YY1 during gastrulation in vivo.

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