GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 encode a family of closely related transcription factors TFII-I and BEN critical in embryonic development. Both genes are deleted in Williams-Beuren syndrome, a complex genetic disorder associated with neurocognitive, craniofacial, dental and skeletal abnormalities. Although genome-wide promoter analysis has revealed the existence of multiple TFII-I binding sites in embryonic stem cells (ESCs), there was no correlation between TFII-I occupancy and gene expression. Surprisingly, TFII-I recognizes the promoter sequences enriched for H3K4me3/K27me3 bivalent domain, an epigenetic signature of developmentally important genes. Moreover, we discovered significant differences in the association between TFII-I and BEN with the cis-regulatory elements in ESCs and embryonic craniofacial tissues. Our data indicate that in embryonic tissues BEN, but not the highly homologous TFII-I, is primarily recruited to target gene promoters. We propose a “feed-forward model” of gene regulation to explain the specificity of promoter recognition by TFII-I factors in eukaryotic cells.
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