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Mol. Cell. Biol. 20 (22): 8623-8633

Copyright © 2000 by the American Society for Microbiology. All rights reserved.

Molecular and Cellular Biology, November 2000, p. 8623-8633, Vol. 20, No. 22
Copyright © 2000, American Society for Microbiology. All rights reserved.

Cell Signaling Switches HOX-PBX Complexes from Repressors to Activators of Transcription Mediated by Histone Deacetylases and Histone Acetyltransferases

Maya Saleh,1,2 Isabel Rambaldi,1 Xiang-Jiao Yang,3 and Mark S. Featherstone1,2,4,*

McGill Cancer Centre,1 Department of Biochemistry,2 Molecular Oncology Group, Department of Medicine,3 and Department of Oncology,4 McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3G 1Y6

Received 26 June 2000/Returned for modification 19 July 2000/Accepted 18 August 2000

The Hoxb1 autoregulatory element comprises three HOX-PBX binding sites. Despite the presence of HOXB1 and PBX1, this enhancer fails to activate reporter gene expression in retinoic acid-treated P19 cell monolayers. Activation requires cell aggregation in addition to RA. This suggests that HOX-PBX complexes may repress transcription under some conditions. Consistent with this, multimerized HOX-PBX binding sites repress reporter gene expression in HEK293 cells. We provide a mechanistic basis for repressor function by demonstrating that a corepressor complex, including histone deacetylases (HDACs) 1 and 3, mSIN3B, and N-CoR/SMRT, interacts with PBX1A. We map a site of interaction with HDAC1 to the PBX1 N terminus and show that the PBX partner is required for repression by the HOX-PBX complex. Treatment with the deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A not only relieves repression but also converts the HOX-PBX complex to a net activator of transcription. We show that this activation function is mediated by the recruitment of the coactivator CREB-binding protein by the HOX partner. Interestingly, HOX-PBX complexes are switched from transcriptional repressors to activators in response to protein kinase A signaling or cell aggregation. Together, our results suggest a model whereby the HOX-PBX complex can act as a repressor or activator of transcription via association with corepressors and coactivators. The model implies that cell signaling is a direct determinant of HOX-PBX function in the patterning of the animal embryo.

* Corresponding author. Mailing address: McGill Cancer Centre, McGill University, McIntyre Medical Sciences Bldg., Rm. 714, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1Y6. Phone: (514) 398-8937. Fax: (514) 398-6769. E-mail: mfeather{at}

Molecular and Cellular Biology, November 2000, p. 8623-8633, Vol. 20, No. 22
Copyright © 2000, American Society for Microbiology. All rights reserved.

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