GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cell Biology



First Thesis Advisor

Janet L. Stein

Second Thesis Advisor

Gary S. Stein


Gene Expression Regulation, Histones, Nuclear Proteins, Repressor Proteins


Proliferation and differentiation are essential processes for the growth and development of higher eukaryotic organisms. Regulation of gene expression is essential for control of cell division and differentiation. Normal eukaryotic cells have a limited proliferative capacity, and ultimately undergo cellular senescence and apoptosis. Terminal differentiation of cells is associated with loss of proliferative capacity and acquisition of specialized functions. Proliferation and differentiation are processes required for the creation and maintenance of diverse tissues both during embryonic development and postnatal life. The cell cycle is the process by which cells reproduce, and requires duplication and segregation of hereditary material. Loss of cell cycle control leads to genetic instability and cancer.

Expression of replication-dependent histone genes is tightly coupled to DNA synthesis, thus making histone genes a good model for studying cell cycle regulation. The HiNF-D complex interacts with all five classes (H1, H2A, H2B, H3 and H4) of histone genes in a cell cycle-dependent manner. The CCAAT displacement protein (CDP)/Cux and the tumor suppressor pRB are key components of the HiNF-D complex. However, the molecular interactions that enable CDP/Cux and pRB to form a complex and thus convey cell growth regulatory information onto histone gene promoters are poorly understood. Transient transfection assays show that CDP/Cux represses the histone H4 promoter and that the pRB large pocket domain functions with CDP/Cux as a co-repressor. Direct interaction between CDP/Cux C-terminus and the pRB pocket domain was observed in GST pull-down assays. Furthermore, co-immunoprecipitation assays and immunofluorescence microscopy established that CDP/Cux and pRB form complexes in vivo and associate in situ. pRB interaction and co-repression with CDP/Cux is independent of pRB phosphosphorylation sites, as revealed by GST pull-down assays and transient transfection assays using a series of pRB mutant proteins. Thus, several converging lines of evidence indicate that complexes between CDP/Cux and pRB repress cell cycle-regulated histone gene promoters.

CDP/Cux is regulated by phosphorylation and acetylation at the C-terminus, which contains two repressor domains and interacts with histone deacetylase HDAC1. In vivo function of the CDP/Cux C-terminus in development and gene regulation was assessed in genetically targeted mice (Cutl1tm2Ejn, referred to as Cutl1ΔC). The mice express a mutant CDP/Cux protein with a deletion of the C-terminus including the homeodomain. Indirect immunofluorescence microscopy showed that the mutant protein exhibited significantly reduced nuclear localization in comparison to the wildtype protein. Consistent with these data, DNA binding activity of HiNF-D was lost in nuclear extracts derived from mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) or adult tissues of homozygous mutant (Cutl1 ΔC -/-) mice, indicating the functional loss of CDP/Cux in the nucleus. No significant difference in growth characteristics or total histone H4 mRNA levels was observed between wildtype and Cutl1 ΔC -/- MEFs in culture. However, the histone H4.1 (murine FO108) gene containing CDP/Cux binding sites have reduced expression levels in homozygous mutant MEFs. Stringent control of growth and differentiation appears to be compromised in vivo. Homozygous mutant mice exhibit stunted growth (20-50% weight reduction), a high postnatal death rate of 60-70%, sparse abnormal coat hair and severely reduced fertility. Hair follicle deformities and severely diminished fertility in Cutl1 ΔC -/- mice suggest that CDP/Cux is required for normal development of dermal tissues and reproductive functions. Together the data presented in this dissertation provide new insight into the in vivo functions of CDP/Cux in the regulation of histone gene expression, growth control and differentiation.



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