A small family of proteins with putative single-stranded DNA-binding activity has been shown to augment the biological actions of LIM-homeodomain (LIM-HD) transcription factors through the mediation of the LIM domain-binding protein LDB1. We recently established that two of these SSBPs, Ssbp2 and Ssbp3, were components of an E-box-GATA DNA-binding complex in murine erythroid progenitors containing transcription factors Tal1, E2A, and Gata-1 and LIM-only protein Lmo2 and showed that Ssbp2 stimulated E box-GATA DNA-binding activity by inhibiting Ldb1 ubiquitination and Ldb1 and Lmo2 turnover (

Genes & Dev.
). Since LIM-HD proteins are substrates of different E3 ubiquitin ligases than LIM-only proteins and have the additional property of binding DNA, we sought to determine the effect of SSBPs on LIM-HD expression and function. Using the prototype LIM-HD protein Lhx2 and one of its best-characterized target genes, Cga, for analysis, we found that an Ssbp3-, Ldb1-, and Lhx2-containing complex associated with an Lhx2 binding element in the Cga promoter in vitro and in mouse pituitary cells (alphaT3-1 cell line) in vivo. We then showed that enforced expression of Ssbp2 and Ssbp3 in alphaT3-1 cells increased Lhx2 and Ldb1 protein abundance, Lhx2 DNA-binding activity, and Cga expression and augmented Lhx2 transcriptional activity in an Ldb1-dependent fashion. While Lhx2-Ldb1-Ssbp3 DNA-binding activity increased in Ssbp3- relative to vector-transfected cells, the affinity of this complex for DNA was unaltered. Similar to the effect of Ssbp2 on Lmo2 in murine erythroleukemia (MEL) cells, overexpressed Ssbp3 reduced Lhx2 protein turnover in cycloheximide-treated alphaT3-1 cells without affecting Lhx2 RNA levels. In contrast, knockdown of endogenous Ssbp3, but not Ssbp2 which is expressed at much lower levels in these cells, reduced Lhx2 and Ldb1 abundance, Lhx2 DNA-binding activity, Lhx2, Ldb1, and Ssbp3 loading onto the Cga promoter, Cga promoter activity, and endogenous Cga gene expression. Significantly, neither overexpression nor knockdown of Ssbp2 in MEL cells, which express both the LIM-only protein Lmo2 and LIM-HD protein Lhx2, affected Lhx2 protein abundance, and Lhx2 DNA-binding activity was undetectable in nuclear extracts from these cells despite the presence of immunoreactive Lhx2. These studies indicate that SSBP augmentation of LIM-HD function results from Ldb1-mediated inhibition of LIM-HD protein turnover and increased assembly of a LIM-HD/LDB1/SSBP DNA-binding complex. The much greater affinity for LDB1 of LIM-only compared to LIM-HD proteins is likely a major determinant of the SSBP effect on LIM-HD protein abundance. Finally, these findings are consistent with cell type-specific contributions of different SSBPs, even for similar LDB1-dependent actions.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.