A Runx1-Smad6 rheostat controls Runx1 activity during embryonic hematopoiesis

Kathy Knezevic, Thomas Bee, Nicola K. Wilson, Mary E. Janes, Sarah Kinston, Stéphanie Polderdijk, Anja Kolb-Kokocinski, Katrin Ottersbach, Niv Pencovich, Yoram Groner, Marella de Bruijn, Berthold Göttgens, John E. Pimanda*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


enic transcription factor Runx1 is required for the specification of definitive hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in the developing embryo. The activity of this master regulator is tightly controlled during development. The transcription factors that upregulate the expression of Runx1 also upregulate the expression of Smad6, the inhibitory Smad, which controls Runx1 activity by targeting it to the proteasome. Here we show that Runx1, in conjunction with Fli1, Gata2, and Scl, directly regulates the expression of Smad6 in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM) region in the developing embryo, where HSCs originate. Runx1 regulates Smad6 activity via a novel upstream enhancer, and Runx1 null embryos show reduced Smad6 transcripts in the yolk-sac and c-Kit-positive fetal liver cells. By directly regulating the expression of Smad6, Runx1 sets up a functional rheostat to control its own activity. The perturbation of this rheostat, using a proteasomal inhibitor, results in an increase in Runx1 and Smad6 levels that can be directly attributed to increased Runx1 binding to tissue-specific regulatory elements of these genes. Taken together, we describe a scenario in which a key hematopoietic transcription factor controls its own expression levels by transcriptionally controlling its controller.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2817-2826
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Medical Research CouncilG0900951, G0800784
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research CouncilBB/I00050X/1


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