Positive and negative feedback regulates the transcription factor FOXL2 in response to cell stress: evidence for a regulatory imbalance induced by disease-causing mutations

Hum Mol Genet. 2009 Feb 15;18(4):632-44. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddn389. Epub 2008 Nov 14.


FOXL2 is a forkhead transcription factor, essential for ovarian function, whose mutations are responsible for the blepharophimosis syndrome, characterized by craniofacial defects, often associated with premature ovarian failure. Here, we show that cell stress upregulates FOXL2 expression in an ovarian granulosa cell model. Increased FOXL2 transcription might be mediated at least partly by self-activation. Moreover, using 2D-western blot, we show that the response of FOXL2 to stress correlates with a dramatic remodeling of its post-translational modification profile. Upon oxidative stress, we observe an increased recruitment of FOXL2 to several stress-response promoters, notably that of the mitochondrial manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD). Using several reporter systems, we show that FOXL2 transactivation is enhanced in this context. Models predict that gene upregulation in response to a signal should eventually be counterbalanced to restore the initial steady state. In line with this, we find that FOXL2 activity is repressed by the SIRT1 deacetylase. Interestingly, we demonstrate that SIRT1 transcription is, in turn, directly upregulated by FOXL2, which closes a negative-feedback loop. The regulatory relationship between FOXL2 and SIRT1 prompted us the test action of nicotinamide, an inhibitor of sirtuins, on FoxL2 expression/activity. According to our expectations, nicotinamide treatment increases FoxL2 transcription. Finally, we show that 11 disease-causing mutations in the ORF of FOXL2 induce aberrant regulation of FOXL2 and/or regulation of the FOXL2 stress-response target gene MnSOD. Taken together, our results establish that FOXL2 is an actor of the stress response and provide new insights into the pathogenic consequences of FOXL2 mutations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blepharophimosis / genetics*
  • Blepharophimosis / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Forkhead Box Protein L2
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Granulosa Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / genetics*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Sirtuin 1
  • Sirtuins / genetics
  • Sirtuins / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • FOXL2 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein L2
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • SIRT1 protein, human
  • Sirtuin 1
  • Sirtuins