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Ditsa Levanon - Top 30 Publications

The Proprioceptive System Masterminds Spinal Alignment: Insight into the Mechanism of Scoliosis.

Maintaining posture requires tight regulation of the position and orientation of numerous spinal components. Yet, surprisingly little is known about this regulatory mechanism, whose failure may result in spinal deformity as in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Here, we use genetic mouse models to demonstrate the involvement of proprioception in regulating spine alignment. Null mutants for Runx3 transcription factor, which lack TrkC neurons connecting between proprioceptive mechanoreceptors and spinal cord, developed peripubertal scoliosis not preceded by vertebral dysplasia or muscle asymmetry. Deletion of Runx3 in the peripheral nervous system or specifically in peripheral sensory neurons, or of enhancer elements driving Runx3 expression in proprioceptive neurons, induced a similar phenotype. Egr3 knockout mice, lacking muscle spindles, but not Golgi tendon organs, displayed a less severe phenotype, suggesting that both receptor types may be required for this regulatory mechanism. These findings uncover a central role for the proprioceptive system in maintaining spinal alignment.

Runx3 in Immunity, Inflammation and Cancer.

In this chapter we summarize the pros and cons of the notion that Runx3 is a major tumor suppressor gene (TSG). Inactivation of TSGs in normal cells provides a viability/growth advantage that contributes cell-autonomously to cancer. More than a decade ago it was suggested that RUNX3 is involved in gastric cancer development, a postulate extended later to other epithelial cancers portraying RUNX3 as a major TSG. However, evidence that Runx3 is not expressed in normal gastric and other epithelia has challenged the RUNX3-TSG paradigm. In contrast, RUNX3 is overexpressed in a significant fraction of tumor cells in various human epithelial cancers and its overexpression in pancreatic cancer cells promotes their migration, anchorage-independent growth and metastatic potential. Moreover, recent high-throughput quantitative genome-wide studies on thousands of human samples of various tumors and new investigations of the role of Runx3 in mouse cancer models have unequivocally demonstrated that RUNX3 is not a bona fide cell-autonomous TSG. Importantly, accumulating data demonstrated that RUNX3 functions in control of immunity and inflammation, thereby indirectly influencing epithelial tumor development.

An ensemble of regulatory elements controls Runx3 spatiotemporal expression in subsets of dorsal root ganglia proprioceptive neurons.

The Runx3 transcription factor is essential for development and diversification of the dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) TrkC sensory neurons. In Runx3-deficient mice, developing TrkC neurons fail to extend central and peripheral afferents, leading to cell death and disruption of the stretch reflex circuit, resulting in severe limb ataxia. Despite its central role, the mechanisms underlying the spatiotemporal expression specificities of Runx3 in TrkC neurons were largely unknown. Here we first defined the genomic transcription unit encompassing regulatory elements (REs) that mediate the tissue-specific expression of Runx3. Using transgenic mice expressing BAC reporters spanning the Runx3 locus, we discovered three REs-dubbed R1, R2, and R3-that cross-talk with promoter-2 (P2) to drive TrkC neuron-specific Runx3 transcription. Deletion of single or multiple elements either in the BAC transgenics or by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated endogenous ablation established the REs' ability to promote and/or repress Runx3 expression in developing sensory neurons. Our analysis reveals that an intricate combinatorial interplay among the three REs governs Runx3 expression in distinct subtypes of TrkC neurons while concomitantly extinguishing its expression in non-TrkC neurons. These findings provide insights into the mechanism regulating cell type-specific expression and subtype diversification of TrkC neurons in developing DRGs.

Runx3 specifies lineage commitment of innate lymphoid cells.

Subsets of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) reside in the mucosa and regulate immune responses to external pathogens. While ILCs can be phenotypically classified into ILC1, ILC2 and ILC3 subsets, the transcriptional control of commitment to each ILC lineage is incompletely understood. Here we report that the transcription factor Runx3 was essential for the normal development of ILC1 and ILC3 cells but not of ILC2 cells. Runx3 controlled the survival of ILC1 cells but not of ILC3 cells. Runx3 was required for expression of the transcription factor RORĪ³t and its downstream target, the transcription factor AHR, in ILC3 cells. The absence of Runx3 in ILCs exacerbated infection with Citrobacter rodentium. Therefore, our data establish Runx3 as a key transcription factor in the lineage-specific differentiation of ILC1 and ILC3 cells.

Runx3 at the interface of immunity, inflammation and cancer.

Inactivation of tumor suppressor genes (TSG) in normal cells provides a viability/growth advantage that contributes cell-autonomously to cancer. More than a decade ago claims arose that the RUNX3 member of the RUNX transcription factor family is a major TSG inactivated in gastric cancer, a postulate extended later to other cancers. However, evidence that Runx3 is not expressed in normal gastric and other epithelia has challenged the RUNX3-TSG paradigm. Here we critically re-appraise this paradigm in light of recent high-throughput, quantitative genome-wide studies on thousands of human samples of various tumors and new investigations of the role of Runx3 in mouse cancer models. Collectively, these studies unequivocally demonstrate that RUNX3 is not a bona fide cell-autonomous TSG. Accordingly, RUNX3 is not recognized as a TSG and is not included among the 2000 cancer genes listed in the "Cancer Gene Census" or "Network for Cancer Genes" repositories. In contrast, RUNX3 does play important functions in immunity and inflammation and may thereby indirectly influence epithelial tumor development.

Transcription factor Runx3 regulates interleukin-15-dependent natural killer cell activation.

Natural killer cells belong to the family of innate lymphoid cells comprising the frontline defense against infected and transformed cells. Development and activation of natural killer cells is highly dependent on interleukin-15 signaling. However, very little is known about the transcription program driving this process. The transcription factor Runx3 is highly expressed in natural killer cells, but its function in these cells is largely unknown. We show that loss of Runx3 impaired interleukin-15-dependent accumulation of mature natural killer cells in vivo and under culture conditions and pregnant Runx3(-/-) mice completely lack the unique population of interleukin-15-dependent uterine natural killer cells. Combined chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing and differential gene expression analysis of wild-type versus Runx3-deficient in vivo activated splenic natural killer cells revealed that Runx3 cooperates with ETS and T-box transcription factors to drive the interleukin-15-mediated transcription program during activation of these cells. Runx3 functions as a nuclear regulator during interleukin-15-dependent activation of natural killer cells by regulating the expression of genes involved in proliferation, maturation, and migration. Similar studies with additional transcription factors will allow the construction of a more detailed transcriptional network that controls natural killer cell development and function.

Runx3-mediated transcriptional program in cytotoxic lymphocytes.

The transcription factor Runx3 is highly expressed in CD8(+) T and NK cytotoxic lymphocytes and is required for their effective activation and proliferation but molecular insights into the transcription program regulated by Runx3 in these cells are still missing. Using Runx3-ChIP-seq and transcriptome analysis of wild type vs. Runx3(-/-) primary cells we have now identified Runx3-regulated genes in the two cell types at both resting and IL-2-activated states. Runx3-bound genomic regions in both cell types were distantly located relative to gene transcription start sites and were enriched for RUNX and ETS motifs. Bound genomic regions significantly overlapped T-bet and p300-bound enhancer regions in Runx3-expressing Th1 helper cells. Compared to resting cells, IL-2-activated CD8(+) T and NK cells contain three times more Runx3-regulated genes that are common to both cell types. Functional annotation of shared CD8(+) T and NK Runx3-regulated genes revealed enrichment for immune-associated terms including lymphocyte activation, proliferation, cytotoxicity, migration and cytokine production, highlighting the role of Runx3 in CD8(+) T and NK activated cells.

Positional differences of axon growth rates between sensory neurons encoded by Runx3.

The formation of functional connectivity in the nervous system is governed by axon guidance that instructs nerve growth and branching during development, implying a similarity between neuronal subtypes in terms of nerve extension. We demonstrate the molecular mechanism of another layer of complexity in vertebrates by defining a transcriptional program underlying growth differences between positionally different neurons. The rate of axon extension of the early subset of embryonic dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons is encoded in neurons at different axial levels. This code is determined by a segmental pattern of axial levels of Runx family transcription factor Runx3. Runx3 in turn determines transcription levels of genes encoding cytoskeletal proteins involved in axon extension, including Rock1 and Rock2 which have ongoing activities determining axon growth in early sensory neurons and blocking Rock activity reverses axon extension deficits of Runx3(-/-) neurons. Thus, Runx3 acts to regulate positional differences in axon extension properties apparently without affecting nerve guidance and branching, a principle that could be relevant to other parts of the nervous system.

Roles of VWRPY motif-mediated gene repression by Runx proteins during T-cell development.

Runx transcription factor family proteins have essential roles during T-cell development by either activating or repressing target genes. For instance, lineage- and stage-specific expression of Cd4 and ThPOK is controlled by a transcriptional silencer embedded in each locus, whose activity requires bindings of Runx complexes. The evolutionarily conserved VWRPY penta-peptide sequences in Runx proteins have been shown to be responsible for repressive function as a platform to recruit Groucho/TLE transcriptional corepressors. However, it remains elusive whether requirement for the VWRPY motif differs among Runx target genes. By examining mice lacking VWRPY motifs in both Runx1 and Runx3 proteins, here, we show a full and partial derepression of Cd4 and ThPOK in CD8-linegae T cells, respectively. Thus, whereas Cd4 silencing completely depends on the VWRPY motif, both VWRPY-dependent and -independent mechanisms operate to repress ThPOK gene. These results indicate that Runx proteins utilize different modes to repress expression of different target genes.

Absence of Runx3 expression in normal gastrointestinal epithelium calls into question its tumour suppressor function.

The Runx3 transcription factor regulates cell fate decisions during embryonic development and in adults. It was previously reported that Runx3 is strongly expressed in embryonic and adult gastrointestinal tract (GIT) epithelium (Ep) and that its loss causes gastric cancer. More than 280 publications have based their research on these findings and concluded that Runx3 is indeed a tumour suppressor (TS). In stark contrast, using various measures, we found that Runx3 expression is undetectable in GIT Ep. Employing a variety of biochemical and genetic techniques, including analysis of Runx3-GFP and R26LacZ/Runx3(Cre) or R26tdTomato/Runx3(Cre) reporter strains, we readily detected Runx3 in GIT-embedded leukocytes, dorsal root ganglia, skeletal elements and hair follicles. However, none of these approaches revealed detectable Runx3 levels in GIT Ep. Moreover, our analysis of the original Runx3(LacZ/LacZ) mice used in the previously reported study failed to reproduce the GIT expression of Runx3. The lack of evidence for Runx3 expression in normal GIT Ep creates a serious challenge to the published data and undermines the notion that Runx3 is a TS involved in cancer pathogenesis.

Translation regulation of Runx3.

Runx3 protein products that are translated from the distal (P1)- and proximal (P2)-promoter transcripts appear on Western blots as a 47-46kDa doublet corresponding to full-length proteins bearing the P1- and P2-N-termini respectively. An additional 44kDa protein band, the origin and nature of which was unclear, is also detected. Transfection of full-length Runx3 cDNA bearing the P2 N-terminus (P2-cDNA) into HEK293 cells resulted in expression of both 46 and 44kDa proteins. Sequence analysis of the P2-cDNA revealed an in-frame ATG 90bp downstream (+90ATG) of the proximal +1ATG. Insertion of an N-terminal HA-tag into P2-cDNA immediately downstream of the +1ATG produced HA-tagged 46kDa and untagged 44kDa proteins, consistent with the possibility that the latter was translated through initiation at the internal +90ATG site. Deleting or blocking the activity of the +1ATG, the natural cap-dependent translation initiation site in P2-cDNA, abrogated production of the 46kDa Runx3 protein while facilitating production of the 44kDa product. These findings supported the notion that Runx3 44kDa protein resulted from internal translation initiation at the +90ATG. Northern blot and RT-PCR analyses performed on RNA from P2-cDNA transfected cells showed a single transcript and product respectively, of the expected size, ruling out the possibility that the 44kDa protein was translated from transcripts originating at a cryptic promoter or produced by alternative splicing. Taken together, the data indicate that the 44kDa protein results from translation initiation at the internal ATG and that Runx3, like its family members Runx1 and Runx2, contains a mechanism for internal mRNA translation initiation.

Runx3-deficient mouse strains circa 2008: resemblance and dissimilarity.

Runx3 is one of the three mammalian Runt domain transcription factors comprising the deeply conserved RUNX gene family. While the three proteins recognize the same DNA-motif, the functional overlaps are minor; each Runx has a distinct subset of biological functions. This lack of functional redundancy is the consequence of a tightly regulated spatio/temporal expression of the genes by transcriptional and post-transcriptional control mechanisms. Over the years several groups created Runx3-deficient mouse models. Analysis of these mice revealed various phenotypic features that result from loss of cell autonomous function of Runx3. Here we summarize the phenotypic similarities and dissimilarities between two of the Runx3-deficient mouse strains, discuss the basis of the discrepancies and highlight the crux of the dispute.

Runx3 and T-box proteins cooperate to establish the transcriptional program of effector CTLs.

Activation of naive CD8(+) T cells with antigen induces their differentiation into effector cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLs). CTLs lyse infected or aberrant target cells by exocytosis of lytic granules containing the pore-forming protein perforin and a family of proteases termed granzymes. We show that effector CTL differentiation occurs in two sequential phases in vitro, characterized by early induction of T-bet and late induction of Eomesodermin (Eomes), T-box transcription factors that regulate the early and late phases of interferon (IFN) gamma expression, respectively. In addition, we demonstrate a critical role for the transcription factor Runx3 in CTL differentiation. Runx3 regulates Eomes expression as well as expression of three cardinal markers of the effector CTL program: IFN-gamma, perforin, and granzyme B. Our data point to the existence of an elaborate transcriptional network in which Runx3 initially induces and then cooperates with T-box transcription factors to regulate gene transcription in differentiating CTLs.

A regulatory interplay between miR-27a and Runx1 during megakaryopoiesis.

The transcription factor Runx1 is a key regulator of definitive hematopoiesis in the embryo and the adult. Lineage-specific expression of Runx1 involves transcription and post-transcription control through usage of alternative promoters and diverse 3'UTR isoforms, respectively. We identified and mapped microRNA (miR) binding sites on Runx1 3'UTR and show that miR-27a, miR-9, miR-18a, miR-30c, and miR-199a* bind and post-transcriptionally attenuate expression of Runx1. miR-27a impacts on both the shortest (0.15 kb) and longest (3.8 kb) 3'UTRs and, along with additional miRs, might contribute to translation attenuation of Runx1 mRNA in the myeloid cell line 416B. Whereas levels of Runx1 mRNA in 416B and the B cell line 70Z were similar, the protein levels were not. Large amounts of Runx1 protein were found in 70Z cells, whereas only minute amounts of Runx1 protein were made in 416B cells and overexpression of Runx1 in 416B induced terminal differentiation associated with megakaryocytic markers. Induction of megakaryocytic differentiation in K562 cells by 12-o-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate markedly increased miR-27a expression, concomitantly with binding of Runx1 to miR-27a regulatory region. The data indicate that miR-27a plays a regulatory role in megakaryocytic differentiation by attenuating Runx1 expression, and that, during megakaryopoiesis, Runx1 and miR-27a are engaged in a feedback loop involving positive regulation of miR-27a expression by Runx1.

The evolutionary origin of the Runx/CBFbeta transcription factors--studies of the most basal metazoans.

Members of the Runx family of transcriptional regulators, which bind DNA as heterodimers with CBFbeta, are known to play critical roles in embryonic development in many triploblastic animals such as mammals and insects. They are known to regulate basic developmental processes such as cell fate determination and cellular potency in multiple stem-cell types, including the sensory nerve cell progenitors of ganglia in mammals.

Developmentally regulated promoter-switch transcriptionally controls Runx1 function during embryonic hematopoiesis.

Alternative promoters usage is an important paradigm in transcriptional control of mammalian gene expression. However, despite the growing interest in alternative promoters and their role in genome diversification, very little is known about how and on what occasions those promoters are differentially regulated. Runx1 transcription factor is a key regulator of early hematopoiesis and a frequent target of chromosomal translocations in acute leukemias. Mice deficient in Runx1 lack definitive hematopoiesis and die in mid-gestation. Expression of Runx1 is regulated by two functionally distinct promoters designated P1 and P2. Differential usage of these two promoters creates diversity in distribution and protein-coding potential of the mRNA transcripts. While the alternative usage of P1 and P2 likely plays an important role in Runx1 biology, very little is known about the function of the P1/P2 switch in mediating tissue and stage specific expression of Runx1 during development.

Runx3 regulates dendritic epidermal T cell development.

The Runx3 transcription factor regulates development of T cells during thymopoiesis and TrkC sensory neurons during dorsal root ganglia neurogenesis. It also mediates transforming growth factor-beta signaling in dendritic cells and is essential for development of skin Langerhans cells. Here, we report that Runx3 is involved in the development of skin dendritic epidermal T cells (DETCs); an important component of tissue immunoregulation. In developing DETCs, Runx3 regulates expression of the alphaEbeta7 integrin CD103, known to affect migration and epithelial retention of DETCs. It also regulates expression of IL-2 receptor beta (IL-2Rbeta) that mediates cell proliferation in response to IL-2 or IL-15. In the absence of Runx3, the reduction in CD103 and IL-2Rbeta expression on Runx3(-/-) DETC precursors resulted in impaired cell proliferation and maturation, leading to complete lack of skin DETCs in Runx3(-/-) mice. The data demonstrate the requirement of Runx3 for DETCs development and underscore the importance of CD103 and IL-2Rbeta in this process. Of note, while Runx3(-/-) mice lack both DETCs and Langerhans cells, the two most important components of skin immune surveillance, the mice did not develop skin lesions under pathogen-free (SPF) conditions.

RUN-CBFbeta interaction in C. elegans: computational prediction and experimental verification.

The Runt domain proteins are eukaryotic transcription factors that regulate major developmental pathways. All members of this family contain a highly-conserved sequence-specific DNA binding domain: the Runt domain (RD). Structural and biochemical studies have shown that the Runt domain undergoes a conformational transition upon binding to DNA and that this process is regulated by an unrelated partner protein CBFbeta that enhances the DNA binding affinity of RD. Most of the reported studies on the Runt domain transcription factors were performed on proteins from mammals and Drosophila whereas very little has been known about the C. elegans RD protein, RUN, which provides the simplest model system for understanding the function of this class of transcription factors. We performed computational studies on RD domains from various species including C. elegans, Drosophila, and human, using the atom-atom contact surface area scoring method. The scoring analysis indicates that the DNA binding regulation of the C. elegans RD protein (CeRD) occurs via its interaction with a CBFbeta-like partner, as found for the human proteins, whereas a different mode of regulation may occur in the Drosophila system. Sequence, secondary structure and fold analyses of a putative CBFbeta protein identified in the C. elegans genome, CeCBFbeta, sharing a 22% identity with the human protein, predict a similar structure of this protein to that of the human CBFbeta protein. We produced the C. elegans proteins CeRD and CeCBFbeta in bacteria and confirmed their physical interaction as well as cross interactions with the corresponding human proteins. We also confirmed the structural similarity of CBFbeta and CeCBFbeta by circular dichroism analysis. The combined results suggest that a similar mechanism of regulation operates for the human and the C. elegans RD proteins despite the low sequence identity between their CBFbeta proteins and the evolutionary distance between the two systems.

Transcription factors T-bet and Runx3 cooperate to activate Ifng and silence Il4 in T helper type 1 cells.

Cell differentiation involves activation and silencing of lineage-specific genes. Here we show that the transcription factor Runx3 is induced in T helper type 1 (T(H)1) cells in a T-bet-dependent manner, and that both transcription factors T-bet and Runx3 are required for maximal production of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and silencing of the gene encoding interleukin 4 (Il4) in T(H)1 cells. T-bet does not repress Il4 in Runx3-deficient T(H)2 cells, but coexpression of Runx3 and T-bet induces potent repression in those cells. Both T-bet and Runx3 bind to the Ifng promoter and the Il4 silencer, and deletion of the silencer decreases the sensitivity of Il4 to repression by either factor. Our data indicate that cytokine gene expression in T(H)1 cells may be controlled by a feed-forward regulatory circuit in which T-bet induces Runx3 and then 'partners' with Runx3 to direct lineage-specific gene activation and silencing.

Dynamic expression of Runx1 in skin affects hair structure.

The three mammalian Runx transcription factors, some of which are known to be involved in human genetic diseases and cancer, are pivotal players in embryo development and function as key regulators of cell fate determination and organogenesis. Here, we report the expression of Runx1 during the development of hair and other skin appendages in the mouse and describe the effect of Runx1 on the structural hair output. In hair follicles, where the three Runx proteins are expressed, Runx1 expression is most prominent in both mesenchymal and epithelial compartments. The epithelial expression includes the hair keratin forming layers of the hair shaft and the bulge, where interestingly, Runx1 is co-expressed with keratin 15, a putative hair follicle stem cell marker. In the hair mesenchyme, during early stages of hair morphogenesis, Runx1 is expressed in a discrete dermal sub-epithelial layer, while at later stages it is found in a hair cycle dependent pattern in the dermal papilla. To elucidate the function of Runx1 in the hair follicle we have generated a Runx1 epidermal conditional knockout and found that the mutant mice display a remarkable structural deformation of the zigzag hair type. The data delineate Runx1 as a novel specific marker of several hair follicle cell types and sheds light on its role in hair morphogenesis and differentiation.

Groucho/transducin-like Enhancer-of-split (TLE)-dependent and -independent transcriptional regulation by Runx3.

Regulation of gene expression by tissue-specific transcription factors involves both turning on and turning off transcription of target genes. Runx3, a runt-domain transcription factor, regulates cell-intrinsic functions by activating and repressing gene expression in sensory neurons, dendritic cells (DC), and T cells. To investigate the mechanism of Runx3-mediated repression in an in vivo context, we generated mice expressing a mutant Runx3 lacking the C-terminal VWRPY, a motif required for Runx3 interaction with the corepressor Groucho/transducin-like Enhancer-of-split (TLE). In contrast with Runx3(-/-) mice, which displayed ataxia due to the death of dorsal root ganglia TrkC neurons, Runx3(VWRPY-/-) mice were not ataxic and had intact dorsal root ganglia neurons, indicating that ability of Runx3 to tether Groucho/TLE is not essential for neurogenesis. In the DC compartment, the mutant protein Runx3(VWRPY-) promoted normally developed skin Langerhans cells but failed to restrain DC spontaneous maturation, indicating that this latter process involves Runx3-mediated repression through recruitment of Groucho/TLE. Moreover, in CD8(+) thymocytes, Runx3(VWRPY-) up-regulated alphaE/CD103-like WT Runx3, whereas unlike wild type, it failed to repress alphaE/CD103 in CD8(+) splenocytes. Thus, in CD8-lineage T cells, Runx3 regulates alphaE/CD103 in opposing regulatory modes and recruits Groucho/TLE to facilitate the transition from activation to repression. Runx3(VWRPY-) also failed to mediate the epigenetic silencing of CD4 gene in CD8(+) T cells, but normally regulated other pan-CD8(+) T cell genes. These data provide evidence for the requirement of Groucho/TLE for Runx3-mediated epigenetic silencing of CD4 and pertain to the mechanism through which other Runx3-regulated genes are epigenetically silenced.

Runx3 is involved in hair shape determination.

Transcriptional regulators of the Runx family play critical roles in normal organ development and, when mutated, lead to genetic diseases and cancer. Runx3 functions during cell lineage decisions in thymopoiesis and neurogenesis and mediates transforming growth factor-beta signaling in dendritic cells. Here, we study the function of Runx3 in the skin and its appendages, primarily the hair follicle, during mouse development. Runx3 is expressed predominantly in the dermal compartment of the hair follicles as they form and during the hair cycle, as well as in the nail and sweat gland skin appendages. Distinct expression is also detected periodically in isolated cells of the epidermis and in melanocytes, populating the hair bulb. Runx3-deficient mice display a perturbation of the normal hair coat, which we show to be due to hair type and hair shape changes. Thus, one of the functions of Runx3 in skin may be to regulate the formation of the epithelial derived structural hair by affecting dermal to epidermal interactions.

Loss of Runx3 function in leukocytes is associated with spontaneously developed colitis and gastric mucosal hyperplasia.

RUNX transcription factors are key regulators of lineage-specific gene expression and might be involved in autoimmune diseases. Runx3 plays a role during the development of sensory neurons and T cells and regulates transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling in dendritic cells. Here, we report that at 4 weeks of age, Runx3 knockout (KO) mice spontaneously develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by leukocyte infiltration, mucosal hyperplasia, formation of lymphoid clusters, and increased production of IgA. Additionally, at a considerably older age (8 months), the KO mice also develop progressive hyperplasia of the gastric mucosa associated with disturbed epithelial differentiation and cellular hyaline degeneration. Analysis of cytokines in the colonic mucosa of Runx3 KO mice revealed a mixed T helper 1/T helper 2 response. By using immunohistochemistry and RNA in situ hybridization, Runx3 expression in the gastrointestinal tract is detected in lymphoid and myeloid populations but not in the epithelium. The data indicate that loss of leukocytic cell-autonomous function of Runx3 results in IBD and gastric lesion in the KO mice. IBD in humans is viewed as a complex genetic disorder. Several susceptibility loci were identified on different human chromosomes including the chromosomal region 1p36 where RUNX3 resides. It is thus tempting to speculate that mutations in RUNX3 may constitute an IBD risk factor in humans.

Structure and regulated expression of mammalian RUNX genes.

The RUNX are key regulators of lineage-specific gene expression in major developmental pathways. The expression of RUNX genes is tightly regulated, leading to a highly specific spatio/temporal expression pattern and to distinct phenotypes of gene knockouts. This review highlights the extensive structural similarities between the three mammalian RUNX genes and delineates how regulation of their expression at the levels of transcription and translation are orchestrated into the unique RUNX expression pattern.

Mouse whole mount RNA in situ hybridization: an effective technique for analyzing gene expression.

To set up a method of analyzing gene expression profile from mouse whole embryos.

Runx3 regulates mouse TGF-beta-mediated dendritic cell function and its absence results in airway inflammation.

Runx3 transcription factor regulates cell lineage decisions in thymopoiesis and neurogenesis. Here we report that Runx3 knockout (KO) mice develop spontaneous eosinophilic lung inflammation associated with airway remodeling and mucus hypersecretion. Runx3 is specifically expressed in mature dendritic cells (DC) and mediates their response to TGF-beta. In the absence of Runx3, DC become insensitive to TGF-beta-induced maturation inhibition, and TGF-beta-dependent Langerhans cell development is impaired. Maturation of Runx3 KO DC is accelerated and accompanied by increased efficacy to stimulate T cells and aberrant expression of beta2-integrins. Lung alveoli of Runx3 KO mice accumulate DC characteristic of allergic airway inflammation. Taken together, abnormalities in DC function and subset distribution may constitute the primary immune system defect, which leads to the eosinophilic lung inflammation in Runx3 KO mice. These data may help elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of allergic airway inflammation in humans.

Expression of Runx1, -2 and -3 during tooth, palate and craniofacial bone development.

We describe the expression of three Runt-related RUNX genes (previously termed AML, Cbfa, or Pebp2alpha) Runx1 and Runx3 during the development of teeth and other craniofacial tissues and compare them to Runx2 expression reported earlier. All three genes were expressed in mesenchymal condensates. Runx1 was expressed in several cartilage primordia earlier than Runx3, and Runx2 was intense in all mesenchymal condensations of bones and teeth. Only Runx1 was expressed in epithelia, and in tooth germs transcripts were detected in outer dental epithelium. Runx1 was also intensely expressed in the midline epithelium of palatal shelves. In early tooth morphogenesis Runx3 was coexpressed with Runx2 in a thin layer of mesenchymal cells underlying dental epithelium. Unlike Runx2, Runx3 was expressed in odontoblasts. However, Runx3 mutant mice did not show obvious tooth phenotype or deviations of Runx1 and Runx2 expression patterns in the tooth.

Runx3 and Runx1 are required for CD8 T cell development during thymopoiesis.

The RUNX transcription factors are important regulators of lineage-specific gene expression. RUNX are bifunctional, acting both as activators and repressors of tissue-specific target genes. Recently, we have demonstrated that Runx3 is a neurogenic transcription factor, which regulates development and survival of proprioceptive neurons in dorsal root ganglia. Here we report that Runx3 and Runx1 are highly expressed in thymic medulla and cortex, respectively, and function in development of CD8 T cells during thymopoiesis. Runx3-deficient (Runx3 KO) mice display abnormalities in CD4 expression during lineage decisions and impairment of CD8 T cell maturation in the thymus. A large proportion of Runx3 KO peripheral CD8 T cells also expressed CD4, and in contrast to wild-type, their proliferation ability was largely reduced. In addition, the in vitro cytotoxic activity of alloimmunized peritoneal exudate lymphocytes was significantly lower in Runx3 KO compared with WT mice. In a compound mutant mouse, null for Runx3 and heterozygous for Runx1 (Runx3-/-;Runx1+/-), all peripheral CD8 T cells also expressed CD4, resulting in a complete lack of single-positive CD8+ T cells in the spleen. The results provide information on the role of Runx3 and Runx1 in thymopoiesis and suggest that both act as transcriptional repressors of CD4 expression during T cell lineage decisions.

Runx3 knockouts and stomach cancer.

Gene targeting often results in knockout mice that show several phenotypes, some of which may not directly relate to the intrinsic function of the disrupted gene. Hence, to study the biological function of genes using knockout mice, one must identify the defects that are directly due to the loss of the targeted gene. Runx3 is a transcription factor that regulates lineage-specific gene expression in developmental processes. Recently, two groups produced Runx3 knockout mice. Two comparable defects were identified in both knockout strains, one involved neurogenesis and the other thymopoiesis. In addition, a stomach defect pertaining to gastric cancer was observed in one of the mutant strains, but not in the other. Here, we assess the differences between the two Runx3 mutant strains and discuss further studies that could reconcile these discrepancies. This article highlights the difficulties of inferring gene function through the interpretation of knockout phenotypes.

Phylogenesis and regulated expression of the RUNT domain transcription factors RUNX1 and RUNX3.

The RUNX transcription factors are key regulators of lineage specific gene expression in developmental pathways. The mammalian RUNX genes arose early in evolution and maintained extensive structural similarities. Sequence analysis suggested that RUNX3 is the most ancient of the three mammalian genes, consistent with its role in neurogenesis of the monosynaptic reflex arc, the simplest neuronal response circuit, found in Cnidarians, the most primitive animals. All RUNX proteins bind to the same DNA motif and act as activators or repressors of transcription through recruitment of common transcriptional modulators. Nevertheless, analysis of Runx1 and Runx3 expression during embryogenesis revealed that their function is not redundant. In adults both Runx1 and Runx3 are highly expressed in the hematopoietic system. At early embryonic stages we found strong Runx3 expression in dorsal root ganglia neurons, confined to TrkC sensory neurons. In the absence of Runx3, knockout mice develop severe ataxia due to the early death of the TrkC neurons. Other phenotypic defects of Runx3 KO mice including abnormalities in thymopoiesis are also being investigated.