Background: The embryonic stem cell (ESC) factor, SALL4, plays an essential role in both development and leukemogenesis. It is a unique gene that is involved in self-renewal in ESC and leukemic stem cell (LSC).
Methodology/principal findings: To understand the mechanism(s) of SALL4 function(s), we sought to identify SALL4-associated proteins by tandem mass spectrometry. Components of a transcription repressor Mi-2/Nucleosome Remodeling and Deacetylase (NuRD) complex were found in the SALL4-immunocomplexes with histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity in ESCs with endogenous SALL4 expression and 293T cells overexpressing SALL4. The SALL4-mediated transcriptional regulation was tested on two potential target genes: PTEN and SALL1. Both genes were confirmed as SALL4 downstream targets by chromatin-immunoprecipitation, and their expression levels, when tested by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), were decreased in 293T cells overexpressing SALL4. Moreover, SALL4 binding sites at the promoter regions of PTEN and SALL1 were co-occupied by NuRD components, suggesting that SALL4 represses the transcriptions of PTEN and SALL1 through its interactions with the Mi-2/NuRD complex. The in vivo repressive effect(s) of SALL4 were evaluated in SALL4 transgenic mice, where decreased expressions of PTEN and SALL1 were associated with myeloid leukemia and cystic kidneys, respectively.
Conclusions/significance: In summary, we are the first to demonstrate that stem cell protein SALL4 represses its target genes, PTEN and SALL1, through the epigenetic repressor Mi-2/NuRD complex. Our novel finding provides insight into the mechanism(s) of SALL4 functions in kidney development and leukemogenesis.