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Nkx2.2 repressor complex regulates islet β-cell specification and prevents β-to-α-cell reprogramming.

Regulation of cell differentiation programs requires complex interactions between transcriptional and epigenetic networks. Elucidating the principal molecular events responsible for the establishment and maintenance of cell fate identities will provide important insights into how cell lineages are specified and maintained and will improve our ability to recapitulate cell differentiation events in vitro. In this study, we demonstrate that Nkx2.2 is part of a large repression complex in pancreatic β cells that includes DNMT3a, Grg3, and HDAC1. Mutation of the endogenous Nkx2.2 tinman (TN) domain in mice abolishes the interaction between Nkx2.2 and Grg3 and disrupts β-cell specification. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Nkx2.2 preferentially recruits Grg3 and HDAC1 to the methylated Aristaless homeobox gene (Arx) promoter in β cells. The Nkx2.2 TN mutation results in ectopic expression of Arx in β cells, causing β-to-α-cell transdifferentiation. A corresponding β-cell-specific deletion of DNMT3a is also sufficient to cause Arx-dependent β-to-α-cell reprogramming. Notably, subsequent removal of Arx in the β cells of Nkx2.2(TNmut/TNmut) mutant mice reverts the β-to-α-cell conversion, indicating that the repressor activities of Nkx2.2 on the methylated Arx promoter in β cells are the primary regulatory events required for maintaining β-cell identity.

Pubmed ID: 22056672


  • Papizan JB
  • Singer RA
  • Tschen SI
  • Dhawan S
  • Friel JM
  • Hipkens SB
  • Magnuson MA
  • Bhushan A
  • Sussel L


Genes & development

Publication Data

November 1, 2011

Associated Grants

  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK0272504
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK042502
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK068763
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK072473
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK082590
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: P30 DK63608
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: R01 DK068763
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: U01 DK072473
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: U01 DK089523

Mesh Terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Co-Repressor Proteins
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Ghrelin
  • Glucagon
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins
  • Transcription Factors