Bioinformatic evaluation of transcriptional regulation of WNT pathway genes with reference to diabetic nephropathy

Gareth J. McKay, David H. Kavanagh, John K. Crean, Alexander P. Maxwell

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Objective: Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is a microvascular complication of diabetes. Members of the WNT/ β-catenin pathways have been implicated in interstitial fibrosis and glomerular sclerosis, characteristic hallmarks of DN. These processes are controlled, in part, by transcription factors (TFs), proteins which bind to gene promoter regions attenuating their regulation. We sought to identify predicted cis-acting transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) over-represented within the promoter regions of WNT pathway members compared to genes across the genome.Methods: We assessed the frequency of 62 TFBS motifs from the JASPAR databases on 65 WNT pathway genes. P-values were estimated on the hypergeometric distribution for each TF. Gene expression profiles of enriched motifs were examined from DN-related datasets to assess clinical significance.Results: TFBS motifs transcription factor AP-2 alpha (TFAP2A), myeloid zinc finger 1 (MZF1), and specificity protein 1 (SP1) were significantly enriched within WNT pathway genes (P-values<6.83x10-29, 1.34x10-11 and 3.01x10-6 respectively). MZF1 gene expression was significantly increased in DN in a whole kidney dataset (fold change = 1.16; 16% increase; P = 0.03). TFAP2A gene expression was decreased in an independent dataset (fold change = -1.02; P = 0.03). SP1 was not differentially expressed in any datasets examined.Conclusions: Three TFBS profiles are significantly enriched within the WNT pathway genes examined highlighting the use of in silico analyses for identifying key regulators of this pathway. Modification of TF binding to gene promoter regions involved in DN pathology may limit progression, making refinement of targeted therapeutic strategies possible through clearer delineation of their role.
Original languageEnglish
Article number608691
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Diabetes Research
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


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