The caudal-related homeodomain transcription factors Cdx1 and Cdx2 are expressed in the developing endoderm with expression persisting into adulthood. Cdx1-/- mutants are viable and fertile and display no overt intestinal phenotype. Cdx2 null mutants are peri-implantation lethal; however, conditional mutation approaches have revealed that Cdx2 is required for patterning the intestinal epithelium and specification of the colon. Cdx2 is also necessary for homeostasis of the intestinal tract in the adult, where Cdx1 and Cdx2 appear to functionally overlap in the distal colon, but not during intestinal development. Cdx1 and Cdx2 exhibit complete overlap of expression in the intestine, although they differ in their relative levels, with Cdx1 maximal in the distal colon and Cdx2 peaking in the proximal cecum. Moreover, Cdx1 protein is graded along the crypt-villus axis, being abundant in the crypts and diminishing towards the villi. Cdx2 is expressed uniformly along this axis, but is differentially phosphorylated; the functional relevance of these expression domains and phosphorylation is currently unknown. Cdx1 and Cdx2 have been suggested to exhibit functional specificity in the intestinal tract. In the present study, using cell-based models, we found that relative to Cdx1, Cdx2 was significantly less potent at effecting a transcriptional response from the Cdx1 promoter, a known Cdx target gene. We subsequently assessed this relationship in vivo using a "gene swap" approach and found that Cdx2 cannot substitute for Cdx1 in this autoregulatory loop. This is in marked contrast with the ability of Cdx2 to support Cdx1 expression and function in paraxial mesoderm and vertebral patterning, thus providing novel in vivo evidence of context-dependent transcriptional specificity between these transcription factors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)