, Volume 63, Issue 19-20, pp 2317-2328
Date: 11 Aug 2006

The Foxa family of transcription factors in development and metabolism

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Abstract.

The Foxa subfamily of winged helix/forkhead box (Fox) transcription factors has been the subject of genetic and biochemical study for over 15 years. During this time its three members, Foxa1, Foxa2 and Foxa3, have been found to play important roles in multiple stages of mammalian life, beginning with early development, continuing during organogenesis, and finally in metabolism and homeostasis in the adult. Foxa2 is required for the formation of the node and notochord, and in its absence severe defects in gastrulation, neural tube patterning, and gut morphogenesis result in embryonic lethality. Foxa1 and Foxa2 cooperate to establish competence in foregut endoderm and are required for normal development of endoderm-derived organs such as the liver, pancreas, lungs, and prostate. In post-natal life, members of the Foxa family control glucose metabolism through the regulation of multiple target genes in the liver, pancreas, and adipose tissue. Insight into the unique molecular basis of Foxa function has been obtained from recent genetic and genomic data, which identify the Foxa proteins as ‘pioneer factors’ whose binding to promoters and enhancers enable chromatin access for other tissue-specific transcription factors.

Received 2 March 2006; received after revision 5 May 2006; accepted 21 June 2006