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Development. 1993 Jun;118(2):439-48.

Differential expression of the HMG box factors TCF-1 and LEF-1 during murine embryogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, University Hospital, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


The recent identification of a number of T lymphocyte-specific enhancers has allowed the cloning of several novel transcription factors. Two of these, TCF-1 and LEF-1, contain a virtually identical DNA-binding domain of the High Mobility Group (HMG-1) box type. TCF-1 and LEF-1 originate from a recent gene duplication event as evidenced by comparison with the chicken homologue, chTCF. We have now analyzed the differential expression of these two transcription factors. In a panel of lymphoid cell lines, TCF-1 was exclusively expressed in the T cell lineage. In contrast, LEF-1 mRNA was detected at equivalent levels in pro- and pre-B cells and in all T lineage cells. In situ hybridization on murine embryos revealed that TCF-1 and LEF-1 were widely expressed at day 7.5 of gestation. At later stages, the expression patterns were complex and only partially overlapping. The expression of TCF-1 and LEF-1 coincided until day 10.5, when mRNAs were detected in limb buds, neural crest, pharyngeal arches and nasal process. At later time points (day 13.5 to 14.5), sites of overlapping expression included lung, the urogenital system, tooth buds, thymus and choroid plexus. Unique expression sites for TCF-1 included Reichert's membrane and trophectoderm-derived cells, the ribs and thoracic prevertebrae, craniofacial structures, the adrenal gland and meninges. Unique LEF-1 expression was observed in the tail prevertebrae, brain and inner ear. Postnatally, expression of both genes could only be detected in lymphoid tissues. These observations suggest that TCF-1 and LEF-1 exert differential functions during murine embryogenesis.

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