Lactase-phlorizin hydrolase is a brush-border enzyme which is specifically expressed in the small intestine where it hydrolyses lactose, the main carbohydrate found in milk. We have previously demonstrated in transgenic mice that the tissue-specific and developmental expression of lactase is controlled by a 1 kb upstream region of the pig lactase gene. Two homeodomain transcription factors, caudal-related homeodomain protein (Cdx2) and hepatic nuclear factor 1α (HNF1α), are known to bind to regulatory cis elements in the promoters for several intestine-specific genes, including lactase, and are present in mammalian intestinal epithelia from an early stage in development. In the present study, we examined whether Cdx2 and HNF1α physically interact and co-operatively activate transcription from the lactase-phlorizin hydrolase promoter. We show that the presence of both factors leads to a much higher level of transcription than the sum of the activation by either factor alone. The N-terminal activation domain of Cdx2 is required for maximal synergy with HNF1α. With the use of pull-down assays, we demonstrate a direct protein-protein interaction between Cdx2 and HNF1α. The interaction domain includes the homeodomain region of both proteins. This is the first demonstration of a functional interaction between two transcription factors involved in the activation of a number of intestine-specific genes. Synergistic interaction between tissue-restricted factors is likely to be an important mechanism for reinforcing developmental and tissue-specific gene expression within the intestine.
- Transcription factors