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Nucleic Acids Res. 1997 Jun 15;25(12):2293-300.

Activation of enhancer elements by the homeobox gene Cdx2 is cell line specific.

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Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 415 Curie Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Cdx2 is a caudal-related homeodomain transcription factor that is expressed in complex patterns during mouse development and at high levels in the intestinal epithelium of adult mice. Cdx2 activates transcription of intestinal gene promoters containing specific binding sites. Moreover, Cdx2 has been shown to induce intestinal differentiation in cell lines. In this study, we show that Cdx2 is able to bind to two well defined enhancer elements in the HoxC8 gene. We then demonstrate that Cdx2 is able to activate transcription of heterologous promoters when its DNA binding element is placed in an enhancer context. Furthermore, the ability to activate enhancer elements is cell-line dependent. When the Cdx2 activation domain was linked to the Gal4 DNA binding domain, the chimeric protein was able to activate Gal4 enhancer constructs in an intestinal cell line, but was unable to activate transcription in NIH3T3 cells. These data suggest that there are cell-specific factors that allow the Cdx2 activation domain to function in the activation of enhancer elements. We hypothesize that either a co-activator protein or differential phosphorylation of the activation domain may be the mechanism for intestinal cell line-specific function of Cdx2 and possibly in other tissues in early development.

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