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Critical Reviews™ in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

Impact factor: 1.571

ISSN Print: 1045-4403
ISSN Online: 2162-6502

Critical Reviews™ in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevEukarGeneExpr.v21.i3.10
pages 207-236

Cell-Context Dependent TCF/LEF Expression and Function: Alternative Tales of Repression, De-Repression and Activation Potentials

Catherine D. Mao
University of Kentucky
Stephen W. Byers
Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Departments of Oncology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA


Wnt signaling controls cell specification and fate during development and adult tissue homeostasis by converging on a small family of DNA binding factors, the T-cell factor/lymphoid enhancer factor (TCF/LEF) family. In response to Wnt signals, TCF/LEF members undergo a transcriptional switch from repression to activation mediated in part by nuclear β-catenin binding and recruitment of co-activator complexes. In mammals, the specificity and fine tuning of this transcriptional switch is also achieved by the cell-context-dependent expression of four members (TCF7, TCF7L1, TCF7L2, and LEF1) and numerous variants, which display differential DNA binding affinity and specificity, repression strength, activation potential, and regulators. TCF7/LEF1 variants are generated by alternative promoters, alternative exon cassettes, and alternative donor/acceptor splicing sites, allowing combinatorial insertion/exclusion of modular functional and regulatory domains. In this review we present mounting evidence for the interdependency of TCF7/LEF1 variant expression and functions with cell lineage and cell state. We also illustrate how the p53 and nuclear receptor family of transcription factors, known to control cell fate and to inhibit Wnt signaling, may participate in the fine tuning of TCF7/LEF1 repression/activation potentials.