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Mech Dev. 1997 Dec;69(1-2):53-69.

The winged helix transcriptional activator HFH-8 is expressed in the mesoderm of the primitive streak stage of mouse embryos and its cellular derivatives.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine, 60612-7334, USA.


The hepatocyte nuclear factor 3/fork head homolog (HFH) proteins are an extensive family of transcription factors which share homology in the winged helix DNA binding domain. Members of the winged helix family have been implicated in cell fate determination during pattern formation, in organogenesis and in cell type-specific gene expression. In this study, we used in situ hybridization to identify the cellular expression pattern of the winged helix transcription factor, HFH-8, during mouse embryonic development. We showed that HFH-8 expression initiates during the primitive streak stage of mouse embryogenesis in the extraembryonic mesoderm and in the lateral mesoderm which gives rise to the somatopleuric and splanchnopleuric mesoderm. During organogenesis, HFH-8 expression is found in the splanchnic mesoderm in close apposition of the gut endoderm, suggesting a role in mesenchymal-epithelial induction of lung and gut morphogenesis. HFH-8 expression continues in lateral mesoderm-derived tissue throughout mouse development. HFH-8 expression is observed in the mesenchymal cells of the oral cavity, esophagus, trachea, lung, intestine, dorsal aorta and intersomitic arteries, but not in the vasculature of the head, liver, kidney or heart. Consistent with these embryonic expression studies, adult HFH-8 expression is restricted to the endothelium and connective fibroblasts of the alveolar sac and in the lamina propria and smooth muscle of the intestine. We also show that several adult endothelial cell lines maintain abundant HFH-8 expression. Furthermore, we used our determined HFH-8 consensus sequence to identify putative target genes expressed in pulmonary and intestinal mesenchymal cells. Cotransfection assays with one of these target promoters, P-selectin, demonstrated that HFH-8 expression was required for IL-6 stimulation of P-selectin promoter activity and suggest that HFH-8 is involved in mediating its cell-specific transcriptional activation in response to cytokines.

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