Isolation, characterization and functional analysis of the xnf7 gene from Xenopus laevis

Siew-Ging Gong, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


A fundamental problem in developmental biology concerns the mechanisms involved in the establishment of the embryonic axis. We are studying Xenopus nuclear factor 7 (xnf7) which we believe to be involved in dorsal-ventral patterning in Xenopus laevis. Xnf7 is a maternal gene product that is retained in the cytoplasm during early embryogenesis until the mid-blastula transition (MBT) when it reenters the nuclei. It is a member of a novel zinc finger proteins, the B-box family, consisting mainly of transcription factors and protooncogenes. The xnf7 gene is reexpressed during embryogenesis at the gastrula-neurula stage of development, with its zygotic expression limited to the central nervous system (CNS). In this study we showed that there are two different cDNAs coding for xnf7, xnf7-O and xnf7-B. They differ by 39 amino acid changes scattered throughout the cDNA. The expression of both forms of xnf7 is limited primarily to the central nervous system (CNS) and dorsal axial structures during later stages of embryogenesis. In order to study the spatial and temporal regulation of the gene, we screened a Xenopus genomic library using part of xnf7 cDNA as a probe. A genomic clone corresponding to the xnf7-O type was isolated, its 5$\sp\prime$ putative regulatory region sequenced, and its transcriptional initiation site mapped. The putative promoter region contained binding sites for Sp1, E2F, USF, a Pu box and AP1. CAT/xnf7 fusion genes were constructed containing various 5$\sp\prime$ deleted regions of the xnf7 promoter linked to a CAT (Chloramphenicol Acetyl Transferase) reporter vector. These constructs were injected into Xenopus oocytes and embryos to study the regions of the xnf7 promoter responsible for basal, temporal and spatial regulation of the gene. The activity of the fusion genes was measured by the conversion of chloramphenicol to its acetylated forms, and the spatial distribution of the transcripts by whole mount in situ hybridization. We showed that the elements involved in basal regulation of xnf7 lie within 121 basepairs upstream of the transcriptional inititiation site. A DNase I footprint analysis performed using oocyte extract showed that a E2F and 2 Sp1 sites were protected. During development, the fusion genes were expressed following the MBT, in accordance with the timing of the endogenous xnf7 gene. Spatially, the expression of the fusion gene containing 421 basepairs of the promoter was localized to the dorsal region of the embryo in a pattern that was almost identical to that detected with the endogenous transcripts. Therefore, the elements involved in spatial and temporal regulation of the xnf7 gene during development were contained within 421 basepairs upstream of the transcriptional initiation site. Future work will further define the elements involved in the spatial and temporal regulation and the trans-factors that interact with them.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Gong, Siew-Ging, "Isolation, characterization and functional analysis of the xnf7 gene from Xenopus laevis" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9532504.