Analysis of the distribution of binding sites for a tissue-specific transcription factor in the vertebrate genome

J Mol Biol. 1997 Feb 21;266(2):231-45. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1996.0760.


Hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 (HNF1) is a dimeric homeoprotein expressed in hepatocytes and in a few other epithelial cells where it helps regulate the expression of a specific subset of genes. In an attempt to identify novel target genes for HNF1 and to assess the distribution of its target sites within the vertebrate genome, we performed a computer-assisted search within the available databases using a weighted matrix. Several hundred potential target sequences were identified within the GenBank and EMBL data banks. DNA binding assays demonstrated that more than 95%, of the new sites tested (52 sites among 54) bound HNF1. Surprisingly many HNF1 target sites were found in genes that are transcribed in cell types that do not contain the protein. On the other hand these sites are 2.5 to five times more frequent in hepatic genes than expected. It seems that the presence of HNF1 sites in liver-specific genes was favoured, but that no counter-selection occurred within the rest of the genome. HNF1 binding sites in liver genes are more often associated in clusters with sites for other transcription factors and the enrichment is more pronounced in promoter regions. We identified more than 100 liver specific genes that are potentially regulated by HNF1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Binding, Competitive
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Genome
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-alpha
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-beta
  • Humans
  • Liver / physiology
  • Multigene Family
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • Oligonucleotides / chemistry
  • Oligonucleotides / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Sequence Alignment / methods*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Vertebrates / genetics*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • HNF1A protein, human
  • HNF1B protein, human
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-alpha
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Transcription Factors
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-beta
  • DNA