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PLoS Genet. 2013;9(2):e1003252. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003252. Epub 2013 Feb 7.

Antagonism versus cooperativity with TALE cofactors at the base of the functional diversification of Hox protein function.

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CABD, CSIC/JA/Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain.


Extradenticle (Exd) and Homothorax (Hth) function as positive transcriptional cofactors of Hox proteins, helping them to bind specifically their direct targets. The posterior Hox protein Abdominal-B (Abd-B) does not require Exd/Hth to bind DNA; and, during embryogenesis, Abd-B represses hth and exd transcription. Here we show that this repression is necessary for Abd-B function, as maintained Exd/Hth expression results in transformations similar to those observed in loss-of-function Abd-B mutants. We characterize the cis regulatory module directly regulated by Abd-B in the empty spiracles gene and show that the Exd/Hth complex interferes with Abd-B binding to this enhancer. Our results suggest that this novel Exd/Hth function does not require the complex to bind DNA and may be mediated by direct Exd/Hth binding to the Abd-B homeodomain. Thus, in some instances, the main positive cofactor complex for anterior Hox proteins can act as a negative factor for the posterior Hox protein Abd-B. This antagonistic interaction uncovers an alternative way in which MEIS and PBC cofactors can modulate Abd-B like posterior Hox genes during development.

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