Downstream targets of the Rhox5 homeobox gene

Zhiying Hu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The X-linked mouse Rhox gene cluster contains over 30 homeobox genes that are candidates to regulate multiple steps in male and female gametogenesis. The founding member of the Rhox gene cluster, Rhox5, is an androgen-dependent gene expressed in Sertoli cells that promotes the survival and differentiation of the adjacent male germ cells. To decipher downstream signaling pathways of Rhox5, I used in vivo and in vitro microarray profiling to identify and characterize downstream targets of Rhox5 in the testis. This led to the identification of many Rhox5 -regulated genes, two of which I focused on in more detail. One of them, Unc5c, encodes a pro-apoptotic receptor with tumor suppressor activity that I found is negatively regulated by Rhox5 through a Rhox5-response element in the Unc5c 5' untranslated region (5' UTR). Examination of other mouse Rhox family members revealed that Rhox2 and Rhox3 also have the ability to downregulate Unc5c expression. The human RHOX protein RHOXF2 also had this ability, indicating that Unc5c repression is a conserved Rhox-dependent response. The repression of Unc5c expression by Rhox5 may, in part, mediate Rhox5's pro-survival function in the testis, as I found that Unc5c mutant mice have decreased germ cell apoptosis in the testis. This along with my other data leads me to propose a model in which Rhox5 is a negative regulator upstream of Unc5c in a Sertoli-cell pathway that promotes germ-cell survival. The other Rhox5-regulated gene that I studied in detail is insulin II (Ins2). Several lines of evidence, including electrophoretic mobility shift anaylsis, promoter mutagenesis, and chromatin immuoprecipitation analysis indicated that Ins2 is a direct target of Rhox5. Structure-function analysis identified homeodomain residues and the RHOX5 amino-terminal domain crucial for conferring Ins2 inducibility. Rhox5 regulates not only the Ins2 gene but also genes encoding other secreted proteins regulating metabolism (adiponectin and resistin), the rate-liming enzyme for monosaturated fatty acid biosynthesis (SCD-1), and transcription factors crucial for regulating metabolism (the nuclear hormone receptor PPARγ). I propose that the regulation of some or all of these molecules in Sertoli cells is responsible for the Rhox5-dependent survival of the adjacent germ cells.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Hu, Zhiying, "Downstream targets of the Rhox5 homeobox gene" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3305162.