Candidate Downstream Regulated Genes of HOX Group 13 Transcription Factors with and without Monomeric DNA Binding Capability

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Source

Developmental Biology


Hox genes encode transcription factors that regulate the morphogenesis of developing embryos. In mammals, knowledge of the genetic pathways, including the possible direct or indirect targets, regulated by HOX proteins is extremely limited. To identify the downstream genes regulated by posterior HOX proteins, we expressed HOXA13 in mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking paralog group 13 expression using a bicistronic HOXA13/EGFP retroviral vector. Microarray analysis identified 68 genes with significant, reproducible RNA expression changes (50 activated; 18 repressed) in stable HOXA13-expressing cells. Genes with the GO annotation terms “extracellular matrix” and “basement membrane” were greatly overrepresented, and several were shown to be regulated by HOX proteins in other studies. Among the genes strongly activated by HOXA13 were Enpp2, a bifunctional enzyme known to modulate tumor and normal cell motility and which is expressed in precartilaginous condensations; Fhl1, a transcription factor implicated in muscle cell differentiation and development; and M32486, a putative integral membrane molecule expressed in the female reproductive tract. Expression differences in the HOXA13-expressing cells were confirmed for selected downstream genes using semi-quantitative RT-PCR, and in vivo coexpression with Hoxa13 in the limb interdigital mesenchyme was demonstrated for many. For two candidates, Igfbp4 andFstl, interdigital limb bud expression was reduced in Hoxa13 mutants. To explore whether paralogous and nonparalogous HOX proteins could regulate the same genes, we created new HOX cell lines and examined the expression of selected genes identified by the HOXA13 screen. HOXD13 similarly activated/repressed 6 tested candidates, demonstrating that multiple downstream genetic pathways may be regulated by paralog HOX proteins. In contrast, HOXA9 was only able to repress expression of some gene targets. A HOXD13 mutant, HOXD13IQN >AAA, incapable of monomeric DNA-binding, activated the expression of 5 HOXA13-upregulated genes; but was incapable of repressing the expression of Ngef and Casp8ap2. Our results suggest that HOX protein–protein interactions without direct HOX DNA-binding may play a larger role in HOX transcriptional regulation than generally assumed, and DNA-binding appears critical for repression.

Inclusive pages





Permission documentation is on file.





Peer Reviewed