Boundary Element Associated Factor-32 (BEAF-32) is an insulator protein predominantly found near gene promoters and thought to play a role in gene expression. We find that mutations in BEAF-32 are lethal, show loss of epithelial morphology in imaginal discs and cause neoplastic growth defects. To investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenotype, we carried out a genome-wide analysis of BEAF-32 localization in wing imaginal disc cells. Mutation of BEAF-32 results in miss-regulation of 3850 genes by at least 1.5-fold, 794 of which are bound by this protein in wing imaginal cells. Up-regulated genes encode proteins involved in cell polarity, cell proliferation and cell differentiation. Among the down-regulated genes are those encoding components of the wingless pathway, which is required for cell differentiation. Miss-regulation of these genes explains the unregulated cell growth and neoplastic phenotypes observed in imaginal tissues of BEAF-32 mutants.
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