Regulation of Hex gene expression by a Smads-dependent signaling pathway

Wenjun Zhang, Tatiana A. Yatskievych, Xu Cao, Parker B. Antin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The homeobox gene Hex is expressed in multiple cell types during embryogenesis and is required for liver and monocyte development. Hex is expressed in the foregut region of late gastrula avian and mammalian embryos in a pattern that overlaps with expression of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Here we investigate the relationship between BMP signaling and Hex gene expression. We find that Hex expression in avian anterior lateral endoderm is regulated by autocrine BMP signaling. Characterization of the mouse Hex gene promoter identified a 71-nucleotide BMP-responsive element (BRE) that is required for up-regulation of Hex by an activated BMP signaling pathway. The Hex BRE binds Smad4 and Smad1-Smad4 complexes in vitro, and in transfection assays, it is responsive to Smad1 and Smad4 but not to Smad2 and Smad4 or Smad3 and Smad4. The BRE contains two copies of a GCCGnCGC-like motif that in Drosophila is the binding site for Mad and Madea followed by two CAGAG boxes that are similar to sequences required for transforming growth factor-β/activin responsiveness of several vertebrate genes. Mutation of the GC elements, but not the two CAGAG boxes, abolishes Smads responsiveness in the intact Hex promoter, whereas mutations in both the GC elements and CAGAG boxes show that they act cooperatively to confer Smads responsiveness to the Hex promoter. The Hex BRE can confer Smads responsiveness to a heterologous promoter, and in this context, both the GC-rich elements and the CAGAG boxes are required for Smads-dependent promoter activity. An element almost identical to the Hex BRE is present within the BMP-responsive Nkx2-5 gene promoter, suggesting that the Hex BRE represents a common response element for genes regulated by BMP signaling in the foregut region of the embryo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45435-45441
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 22 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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