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Science. 1998 Jul 31;281(5377):692-5.

Regulation of a transcription factor network required for differentiation and metabolism.

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Laboratories of Molecular Cell Biology and Metabolic Diseases, Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Hepatocyte nuclear factors (HNFs) are a heterogeneous class of evolutionarily conserved transcription factors that are required for cellular differentiation and metabolism. Mutations in HNF-1alphaand HNF-4alpha genes impair insulin secretion and cause type 2 diabetes. Regulation of HNF-4/HNF-1 expression by HNF-3alpha and HNF-3beta was studied in embryoid bodies in which one or both HNF-3alpha or HNF-3beta alleles were inactivated. HNF-3beta positively regulated the expression of HNF-4alpha/HNF-1alpha and their downstream targets, implicating a role in diabetes. HNF-3beta was also necessary for expression of HNF-3alpha. In contrast, HNF-3alpha acts as a negative regulator of HNF-4alpha/HNF-1alpha demonstrating that HNF-3alpha and HNF-3beta have antagonistic transcriptional regulatory functions in vivo. HNF-3alpha does not appear to act as a classic biochemical repressor but rather exerts its negative effect by competing for HNF-3 binding sites with the more efficient activator HNF-3beta. In addition, the HNF-3alpha/HNF-3beta ratio is modulated by the presence of insulin, providing evidence that the HNF network may have important roles in mediating the action of insulin.

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