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1.  Islet-1 is Required for the Maturation, Proliferation, and Survival of the Endocrine Pancreas 
Diabetes  2009;58(9):2059-2069.
The generation of mature cell types during pancreatic development depends on the expression of many regulatory and signaling proteins. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the transcriptional regulator Islet-1 (Isl-1), whose expression is first detected in the mesenchyme and epithelium of the developing pancreas and is later restricted to mature islet cells, is involved in the terminal differentiation of islet cells and maintenance of islet mass.
To investigate the role of Isl-1 in the pancreatic epithelium during the secondary transition, Isl-1 was conditionally and specifically deleted from embryonic day 13.5 onward using Cre/LoxP technology.
Isl-1–deficient endocrine precursors failed to mature into functional islet cells. The postnatal expansion of endocrine cell mass was impaired, and consequently Isl-1 deficient mice were diabetic. In addition, MafA, a potent regulator of the Insulin gene and β-cell function, was identified as a direct transcriptional target of Isl-1.
These results demonstrate the requirement for Isl-1 in the maturation, proliferation, and survival of the second wave of hormone-producing islet cells.
PMCID: PMC2731519  PMID: 19502415
2.  Islet α-, β-, and δ-Cell Development Is Controlled by the Ldb1 Coregulator, Acting Primarily With the Islet-1 Transcription Factor 
Diabetes  2013;62(3):875-886.
Ldb1 and Ldb2 are coregulators that mediate Lin11-Isl1-Mec3 (LIM)–homeodomain (HD) and LIM-only transcription factor–driven gene regulation. Although both Ldb1 and Ldb2 mRNA were produced in the developing and adult pancreas, immunohistochemical analysis illustrated a broad Ldb1 protein expression pattern during early pancreatogenesis, which subsequently became enriched in islet and ductal cells perinatally. The islet-enriched pattern of Ldb1 was similar to pan-endocrine cell–expressed Islet-1 (Isl1), which was demonstrated in this study to be the primary LIM-HD transcription factor in developing and adult islet cells. Endocrine cell–specific removal of Ldb1 during mouse development resulted in a severe reduction of hormone+ cell numbers (i.e., α, β, and δ) and overt postnatal hyperglycemia, reminiscent of the phenotype described for the Isl1 conditional mutant. In contrast, neither endocrine cell development nor function was affected in the pancreas of Ldb2−/− mice. Gene expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses demonstrated that many important Isl1-activated genes were coregulated by Ldb1, including MafA, Arx, insulin, and Glp1r. However, some genes (i.e., Hb9 and Glut2) only appeared to be impacted by Ldb1 during development. These findings establish Ldb1 as a critical transcriptional coregulator during islet α-, β-, and δ-cell development through Isl1-dependent and potentially Isl1-independent control.
PMCID: PMC3581213  PMID: 23193182
3.  Islet1-expressing cardiac progenitor cells: a comparison across species 
Development Genes and Evolution  2012;223(1-2):117-129.
Adult mammalian cardiac stem cells express the LIM-homeodomain transcription factor Islet1 (Isl1). They are considered remnants of Isl1-positive embryonic cardiac progenitor cells. During amniote heart development, Isl1-positive progenitor cells give rise mainly to the outflow tract, the right ventricle, and parts of the atria. This led to the hypothesis that the development of the right ventricle of the amniote heart depends on the recruitment of additional cells to the primary heart tube. The region from which these additional, Isl1-positive cells originate is called second heart field, as opposed to the first heart field whose cells form the primary heart tube. Here, we review the available data about Isl1 in different species, demonstrating that Isl1 is an important component of the core transcription factor network driving early cardiogenesis in animals of the two clades, deuterostomes, and protostomes. The data support the view of a single cardiac progenitor cell population that includes Isl1-expressing cells and which differentiates into the various cardiac lineages during embryonic development in vertebrates but not in other phyla of the animal kingdom.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00427-012-0400-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3552366  PMID: 22526874
Islet1; Heart development; Cardiac progenitor cell; Cardiac stem cell
4.  ISL1 Promotes Pancreatic Islet Cell Proliferation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e22387.
Islet 1 (ISL1), a LIM-homeodomain transcription factor is essential for promoting pancreatic islets proliferation and maintaining endocrine cells survival in embryonic and postnatal pancreatic islets. However, how ISL1 exerts the role in adult islets is, to date, not clear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Our results show that ISL1 expression was up-regulated at the mRNA level both in cultured pancreatic cells undergoing glucose oxidase stimulation as well in type 1 and type 2 diabetes mouse models. The knockdown of ISL1 expression increased the apoptosis level of HIT-T15 pancreatic islet cells. Using HIT-T15 and primary adult islet cells as cell models, we show that ISL1 promoted adult pancreatic islet cell proliferation with increased c-Myc and CyclinD1 transcription, while knockdown of ISL1 increased the proportion of cells in G1 phase and decreased the proportion of cells in G2/M and S phases. Further investigation shows that ISL1 activated both c-Myc and CyclinD1 transcription through direct binding on their promoters.
ISL1 promoted adult pancreatic islet cell proliferation and probably by activating c-Myc and CyclinD1 transcription through direct binding on their promoters. Our findings extend the knowledge about the crucial role of ISL1 in maintaining mature islet cells homeostasis. Our results also provide insights into the new regulation relationships between ISL1 and other growth factors.
PMCID: PMC3150357  PMID: 21829621
5.  LMCD1/Dyxin Is a Novel Transcriptional Cofactor That Restricts GATA6 Function by Inhibiting DNA Binding 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(20):8864-8873.
The activity of GATA factors is regulated, in part, at the level of protein-protein interactions. LIM domain proteins, first defined by the zinc finger motifs found in the Lin11, Isl-1, and Mec-3 proteins, act as coactivators of GATA function in both hematopoietic and cardiovascular tissues. We have identified a novel GATA-LIM interaction between GATA6 and LMCD1/dyxin. The LIM domains and cysteine-rich domains in LMCD1/dyxin and the carboxy-terminal zinc finger of GATA6 mediate this interaction. Expression of LMCD1/dyxin is remarkably similar to that of GATA6, with high-level expression observed in distal airway epithelium of the lung, vascular smooth muscle, and myocardium. In contrast to other GATA-LIM protein interactions, LMCD1/dyxin represses GATA6 activation of both lung and cardiac tissue-specific promoters. Electrophoretic mobility shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays show that LMCD1/dyxin represses GATA6 function by inhibiting GATA6 DNA binding. These data reveal an interaction between GATA6 and LMCD1/dyxin and demonstrate a novel mechanism through which LIM proteins can assert their role as transcriptional cofactors of GATA proteins.
PMCID: PMC1265795  PMID: 16199866
6.  Isl1 Is required for multiple aspects of motor neuron development 
The LIM homeodomain transcription factor Islet1 (Isl1) is expressed in multiple organs and plays essential roles during embryogenesis. Isl1 is required for the survival and specification of spinal cord motor neurons. Due to early embryonic lethality and loss of motor neurons, the role of Isl1 in other aspects of motor neuron development remains unclear. In this study, we generated Isl1 mutant mouse lines expressing graded doses of Isl1. Our study has revealed essential roles of Isl1 in multiple aspects of motor neuron development, including motor neuron cell body localization, motor column formation and axon growth. In addition, Isl1 is required for survival of cranial ganglia neurons.
PMCID: PMC3200226  PMID: 21569850
Motor neuron; V2 interneuron; Cranial ganglia; Cell death; Isl1; Axon growth
7.  Dendritic and axonal targeting patterns of a genetically-specified class of retinal ganglion cells that participate in image-forming circuits 
Neural Development  2014;9:2.
There are numerous functional types of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), each participating in circuits that encode a specific aspect of the visual scene. This functional specificity is derived from distinct RGC morphologies and selective synapse formation with other retinal cell types; yet, how these properties are established during development remains unclear. Islet2 (Isl2) is a LIM-homeodomain transcription factor expressed in the developing retina, including approximately 40% of all RGCs, and has previously been implicated in the subtype specification of spinal motor neurons. Based on this, we hypothesized that Isl2+ RGCs represent a related subset that share a common function.
We morphologically and molecularly characterized Isl2+ RGCs using a transgenic mouse line that expresses GFP in the cell bodies, dendrites and axons of Isl2+ cells (Isl2-GFP). Isl2-GFP RGCs have distinct morphologies and dendritic stratification patterns within the inner plexiform layer and project to selective visual nuclei. Targeted filling of individual cells reveals that the majority of Isl2-GFP RGCs have dendrites that are monostratified in layer S3 of the IPL, suggesting they are not ON-OFF direction-selective ganglion cells. Molecular analysis shows that most alpha-RGCs, indicated by expression of SMI-32, are also Isl2-GFP RGCs. Isl2-GFP RGCs project to most retino-recipient nuclei during early development, but specifically innervate the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus and superior colliculus (SC) at eye opening. Finally, we show that the segregation of Isl2+ and Isl2- RGC axons in the SC leads to the segregation of functional RGC types.
Taken together, these data suggest that Isl2+ RGCs comprise a distinct class and support a role for Isl2 as an important component of a transcription factor code specifying functional visual circuits. Furthermore, this study describes a novel genetically-labeled mouse line that will be a valuable resource in future investigations of the molecular mechanisms of visual circuit formation.
PMCID: PMC3937143  PMID: 24495295
8.  Islet 1 is Expressed in Distinct Cardiovascular Lineages, Including Pacemaker and Coronary Vascular Cells 
Developmental biology  2006;304(1):286-296.
Islet1 (Isl1) is a LIM homedomain protein that plays a pivotal role in cardiac progenitors of the second heart field. Here, lineage studies with an inducible isl1-cre demonstrated that most Isl1 progenitors have migrated into the heart by E9. Although Isl1 expression is downregulated in most cardiac progenitors as they differentiate, analysis of an isl1-nlacZ mouse and coimmunostaining for Isl1 and lineage markers demonstrated that Isl1 is expressed in distinct subdomains of the heart, and in diverse cardiovascular lineages. Isl1 expression was observed in myocardial lineages of the distal outflow tract, atrial septum, and in sinoatrial and atrioventricular node. The myocardialized septum of the outflow tract was found to derive from Isl1 expressing cells. Isl1 expressing cells also contribute to endothelial and vascular smooth muscle lineages including smooth muscle of the coronary vessels. Our data indicate that Isl1 is a specific marker for a subset of pacemaker cells at developmental stages examined, and suggest genetic heterogeneity within the central conduction system and coronary smooth muscle. Our studies suggest a role for Isl1 in these distinct domains of expression within the heart.
PMCID: PMC2582044  PMID: 17258700
Cardiac progenitor; Lineage; Isl1; pacemaker; Coronary smooth muscle; Tamoxifen; Inducible Cre
9.  Expression of the LIM-Homeodomain Protein Isl1 in the Developing and Mature Mouse Retina 
The mammalian retina is comprised of six major neuronal cell types and is subdivided into more morphological and physiological subtypes. The transcriptional machinery underlying these subtype fate choices is largely unknown. The LIM-homeodomain protein, Isl1, plays an essential role in central nervous system (CNS) differentiation but its relationship to retinal neurogenesis remains unknown. We report here its dynamic spatiotemporal expression in the mouse retina. Among bipolar interneurons, Isl1 expression commences at postnatal day (P)5 and is later restricted to ON-bipolar cells. The intensity of Isl1 expression is found to segregate the pool of ON-bipolar cells into rod and ON-cone bipolar cells with higher expression in rod bipolar cells. As bipolar cell development proceeds from P5–10 the colocalization of Isl1 and the pan-bipolar cell marker Chx10 reveals the organization of ON-center bipolar cell nuclei to the upper portion of the inner nuclear layer. Further, whereas Isl1 is predominantly a ganglion cell marker prior to embryonic day (E)15.5, at E15.5 and later its expression in nonganglion cells expands. We demonstrate that these Isl1-positive, nonganglion cells acquire the expression of amacrine cell markers embryonically, likely representing nascent cholinergic amacrine cells. Taken together, Isl1 is expressed during the maturation of and is later maintained in retinal ganglion cells and subtypes of amacrine and bipolar cells where it may function in the maintenance of these cells into adulthood. J. Comp. Neurol. 503: 182–197, 2007.
PMCID: PMC2950632  PMID: 17480014
ON-bipolar cells; Chx10; amacrine cell; retina; neurogenesis; transcription factors; subtype markers
10.  Splice variants of Enigma homolog, differentially expressed during heart development, promote or prevent hypertrophy 
Cardiovascular Research  2010;86(3):374-382.
Proteins with a PDZ (for PSD-95, DLG, ZO-1) and one to three LIM (for Lin11, Isl-1, Mec-3) domains are scaffolding sarcomeric and cytoskeletal elements that form structured muscle fibres and provide for the link to intracellular signalling by selectively associating protein kinases, ion channels, and transcription factors with the mechanical stress–strain sensors. Enigma homolog (ENH) is a PDZ–LIM protein with four splice variants: ENH1 with an N-terminal PDZ domain and three C-terminal LIM domains and ENH2, ENH3, and ENH4 without LIM domains. We addressed the functional role of ENH alternative splicing.
Methods and results
We studied the expression of the four ENH isoforms in the heart during development and in a mouse model of heart hypertrophy. All four isoforms are expressed in the heart but the pattern of expression is clearly different between embryonic, neonatal, and adult stages. ENH1 appears as the embryonic isoform, whereas ENH2, ENH3, and ENH4 are predominant in adult heart. Moreover, alternative splicing of ENH was changed following induction of heart hypertrophy, producing an ENH isoform pattern similar to that of neonatal heart. Next, we tested a possible causal role of ENH1 and ENH4 in the development of cardiac hypertrophy. When overexpressed in rat neonatal cardiomyocytes, ENH1 promoted the expression of hypertrophy markers and increased cell volume, whereas, on the contrary, ENH4 overexpression prevented these changes.
Antagonistic splice variants of ENH may play a central role in the adaptive changes of the link between mechanical stress-sensing and signalling occurring during embryonic development and/or heart hypertrophy.
PMCID: PMC2868178  PMID: 20097676
Hypertrophy; PDZ–LIM protein; Alternative splicing
11.  Islet-1 Controls the Differentiation of Retinal Bipolar and Cholinergic Amacrine Cells 
Whereas the mammalian retina possesses a repertoire of factors known to establish general retinal cell types, these factors alone cannot explain the vast diversity of neuronal subtypes. In other CNS regions, the differentiation of diverse neuronal pools is governed by coordinately acting LIM-homeodomain proteins including the Islet-class factor Islet-1 (Isl1). We report that deletion of Isl1 profoundly disrupts retinal function as assessed by electroretinograms and vision as assessed by optomotor behavior. These deficits are coupled with marked reductions in mature ON- and OFF-bipolar (>76%), cholinergic amacrine (93%), and ganglion (71%) cells. Mosaic deletion of Isl1 permitted a chimeric analysis of “wild-type” cells in a predominantly Isl1-null environment, demonstrating a cell-autonomous role for Isl1 in rod bipolar and cholinergic amacrine development. Furthermore, the effects on bipolar cell development appear to be dissociable from the preceding retinal ganglion cell loss, because Pou4f2-null mice are devoid of similar defects in bipolar cell marker expression. Expression of the ON- and OFF-bipolar cell differentiation factors Bhlhb4 and Vsx1, respectively, requires the presence of Isl1, whereas the early bipolar cell marker Prox1 initially did not. Thus, Isl1 is required for engaging bipolar differentiation pathways but not for general bipolar cell specification. Spatiotemporal expression analysis of additional LIM-homeobox genes identifies a LIM-homeobox gene network during bipolar cell development that includes Lhx3 and Lhx4. We conclude that Isl1 has an indispensable role in retinal neuron differentiation within restricted cell populations and this function may reflect a broader role for other LIM-homeobox genes in retinal development, and perhaps in establishing neuronal subtypes.
PMCID: PMC2972590  PMID: 18003851
retina; retinal bipolar cell; transcription factor; differentiation; ERG (electroretinogram); optomotor behavior; amacrine; retinal ganglion cell
12.  Islet-1 Immunoreactivity in the Developing Retina of Xenopus laevis 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:740420.
The LIM-homeodomain transcription factor Islet1 (Isl1) has been widely used as a marker of neuronal differentiation in the developing visual system of different classes of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. In the present study, we analyzed the spatial and temporal distribution of Isl1-immunoreactive cells during Xenopus laevis retinal development and its relation to the formation of the retinal layers, and in combination with different markers of cell differentiation. The earliest Isl1 expression appeared at St29-30 in the cell nuclei of sparse differentiating neuroblasts located in the vitreal surface of the undifferentiated retina. At St35-36, abundant Isl1-positive cells accumulated at the vitreal surface of the neuroepithelium. As development proceeded and through the postmetamorphic juveniles, Isl1 expression was identified in subpopulations of ganglion cells and in subsets of amacrine, bipolar, and horizontal cells. These data together suggest a possible role for Isl1 in the early differentiation and maintenance of different retinal cell types, and Isl1 can serve as a specific molecular marker for the study of retinal cell specification in X. laevis.
PMCID: PMC3844241  PMID: 24348185
13.  ISL1 Directly Regulates FGF10 Transcription during Human Cardiac Outflow Formation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30677.
The LIM homeodomain gene Islet-1 (ISL1) encodes a transcription factor that has been associated with the multipotency of human cardiac progenitors, and in mice enables the correct deployment of second heart field (SHF) cells to become the myocardium of atria, right ventricle and outflow tract. Other markers have been identified that characterize subdomains of the SHF, such as the fibroblast growth factor Fgf10 in its anterior region. While functional evidence of its essential contribution has been demonstrated in many vertebrate species, SHF expression of Isl1 has been shown in only some models. We examined the relationship between human ISL1 and FGF10 within the embryonic time window during which the linear heart tube remodels into four chambers. ISL1 transcription demarcated an anatomical region supporting the conserved existence of a SHF in humans, and transcription factors of the GATA family were co-expressed therein. In conjunction, we identified a novel enhancer containing a highly conserved ISL1 consensus binding site within the FGF10 first intron. ChIP and EMSA demonstrated its direct occupation by ISL1. Transcription mediated by ISL1 from this FGF10 intronic element was enhanced by the presence of GATA4 and TBX20 cardiac transcription factors. Finally, transgenic mice confirmed that endogenous factors bound the human FGF10 intronic enhancer to drive reporter expression in the developing cardiac outflow tract. These findings highlight the interest of examining developmental regulatory networks directly in human tissues, when possible, to assess candidate non-coding regions that may be responsible for congenital malformations.
PMCID: PMC3267757  PMID: 22303449
14.  Cell type and tissue specific function of islet genes in zebrafish pancreas development 
Developmental Biology  2013;378(1):25-37.
Isl1 is a LIM homeobox transcription factor showing conserved expression in the developing and mature vertebrate pancreas. So far, functions of pancreatic Isl1 have mainly been studied in the mouse, where Isl1 has independent functions during formation of exocrine and endocrine tissues. Here, we take advantage of a recently described isl1 mutation in zebrafish to address pancreatic isl1 functions in a non-mammalian system. Isl1 in zebrafish, as in mouse, shows transient expression in mesenchyme flanking the pancreatic endoderm, and continuous expression in all endocrine cells. In isl1 mutants, endocrine cells are specified in normal numbers but more than half of these cells fail to establish expression of endocrine hormones. By using a lineage tracking approach that highlights cells leaving cell cycle early in development, we show that isl1 functions are different in first and second wave endocrine cells. In isl1 mutants, early forming first wave cells show virtually no glucagon expression and a reduced number of cells expressing insulin and somatostatin, while in the later born second wave cells somatostatin expressing cells are strongly reduced and insulin and glucagon positive cells form in normal numbers. Isl1 mutant zebrafish also display a smaller exocrine pancreas. We find that isl1 expression in the pancreatic mesenchyme overlaps with that of the related genes isl2a and isl2b and that pancreatic expression of isl-genes is independent of each other. As a combined block of two or three isl1/2 genes results in a dose-dependent reduction of exocrine tissue, our data suggest that all three genes cooperatively contribute to non-cell autonomous exocrine pancreas extension. The normal expression of the pancreas mesenchyme markers meis3, fgf10 and fgf24 in isl1/2 depleted embryos suggests that this activity is independent of isl-gene function in pancreatic mesenchyme formation as was found in mouse. This indicates species-specific differences in the requirement for isl-genes in pancreatic mesenchyme formation. Overall, our data reveal a novel interaction of isl1 and isl2 genes in exocrine pancreas expansion and cell type specific requirements during endocrine cell maturation.
• Overlapping functions of islet1, islet2a and islet2b in exocrine pancreas formation.•  Islet1/2a/2b are not required for pancreatic mesenchyme formation.• Islet1 but not islet2a/b is required for endocrine cell maturation.• Endocrine cell types are differently affected by the loss of islet1.
PMCID: PMC3657195  PMID: 23518338
Islet1; Islet2; Lim homeodomain; Pancreas; Exocrine; Endocrine; Insulin; Glucagon; Zebrafish
15.  ALP/Enigma PDZ–LIM Domain Proteins in the Heart 
Actinin-associated LIM protein (ALP) and Enigma are two subfamilies of Postsynaptic density 95, discs large and zonula occludens-1 (PDZ)–Lin-11, Isl1 and Mec-3 (LIM) domain containing proteins. ALP family members have one PDZ and one LIM domain, whereas Enigma proteins contain one PDZ and three LIM domains. Four ALP and three Enigma proteins have been identified in mammals, each having multiple splice variants and unique expression patterns. Functionally, these proteins bind through their PDZ domains to α-actinin and bind through their LIM domains or other internal protein interaction domains to other proteins, including signaling molecules. ALP and Enigma proteins have been implicated in cardiac and skeletal muscle structure, function and disease, neuronal function, bipolar disorder, tumor growth, platelet and epithelial cell motility and bone formation. This review will focus on recent advances in the biological roles of ALP/Enigma PDZ–LIM domain proteins in cardiac muscle and provide insights into mechanisms by which mutations in these proteins are related to human cardiac disease.
PMCID: PMC2905065  PMID: 20042479
PDZ; LIM; cypher; ZASP; cardiomyopathy; Z-disc
16.  ISL1 and BRN3B co-regulate the differentiation of murine retinal ganglion cells 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2008;135(11):1981-1990.
LIM-homeodomain (HD) and POU-HD transcription factors play critical roles in neurogenesis. However, it remains largely unknown how they cooperate in this process and what downstream target genes they regulate. Here we show that ISL1, a LIM-HD protein, is co-expressed with BRN3B, a POU-HD factor, in nascent, post-mitotic retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Similar to the Brn3b-null retinas, retina-specific deletion of Isl1 results in the apoptosis of a majority of RGCs and in RGC axon guidance defects. The Isl1 and Brn3b double null mice display more severe retinal abnormalities with a near complete loss of RGCs, indicating the synergistic functions of these two factors. Furthermore, we show that both Isl1 and Brn3b function downstream of Math5 to regulate the expression of a common set of RGC-specific genes. Whole retina chromatin immunoprecipitation and in vitro transactivation assays reveal that ISL1 and BRN3B concurrently bind to and synergistically regulate the expression of a common set of RGC-specific genes. Thus, our results uncover a novel regulatory mechanism of BRN3B and ISL1 in RGC differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2758274  PMID: 18434421
LIM-homeodomain; POU-domain; Math5; Atoh7; Pou4f2; RGC; retinal development; transcription factor
17.  Isl1 is a direct transcriptional target of Forkhead transcription factors in second heart field-derived mesoderm 
Developmental biology  2009;334(2):513-522.
The cells of the second heart field (SHF) contribute to the outflow tract and right ventricle, as well as to parts of the left ventricle and atria. Isl1, a member of the LIM-homeodomain transcription factor family, is expressed early in this cardiac progenitor population and functions near the top of a transcriptional pathway essential for heart development. Isl1 is required for the survival and migration of SHF-derived cells into the early developing heart at the inflow and outflow poles. Despite this important role for Isl1 in early heart formation, the transcriptional regulation of Isl1 has remained largely undefined. Therefore, to identify transcription factors that regulate Isl1 expression in vivo, we screened the conserved noncoding sequences from the mouse Isl1 locus for enhancer activity in transgenic mouse embryos. Here, we report the identification of an enhancer from the mouse Isl1 gene that is sufficient to direct expression to the SHF and its derivatives. The Isl1 SHF enhancer contains three consensus Forkhead transcription factor binding sites that are efficiently and specifically bound by Forkhead transcription factors. Importantly, the activity of the enhancer is dependent on these three Forkhead binding sites in transgenic mouse embryos. Thus, these studies demonstrate that Isl1 is a direct transcriptional target of Forkhead transcription factors in the SHF and establish a transcriptional pathway upstream of Isl1 in the SHF.
PMCID: PMC2928383  PMID: 19580802
18.  Elevation of transcription factor Islet-1 levels in vivo increases β-cell function but not β-cell mass 
Islets  2012;4(3):199-206.
A decrease in the expression of Islet-1 (Isl-1), an islet transcription factor, has been reported in several physiological settings of reduced β-cell function. Here, we investigate whether an increased level of Isl-1 in islet cells can enhance β-cell function and/or mass. We demonstrate that transgenic mice with Isl-1 overexpression display improved glucose tolerance and enhanced insulin secretion without significant changes in β cell mass. From our microarray study, we identify approximately 135 differentially expressed genes in the islets of Isl-1 overexpressing mice that have been implicated to function in numerous biological processes including protein trafficking, metabolism and differentiation. Using real-time PCR we have confirmed upregulation of Caps2, Sec14l4, Slc2a10, P2rx7, Afamin, and Neurogenin 3 that may in part mediate the observed improved insulin secretion in Isl-1 overexpressing mice. These findings show for the first time that Isl-1 is a key factor in regulating adult β cell function in vivo, and suggest that Isl-1 elevation could be beneficial to improve glucose homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3442817  PMID: 22595886
Islet-1; glucose tolerance; insulin; transcription factor; β-cells
19.  Identification of regulatory elements in the Isl1 gene locus 
Isl1 is a LIM/homeodomain transcription factor with critical roles for the development of the heart, the nervous system and the pancreas. Both deficiency and mis-expression of Isl1 cause profound developmental defects, demonstrating the importance of proper regulation of Isl1 gene expression during development. In order to understand the mechanisms that control Isl1 expression during embryogenesis and in tissue differentiation, we initiated a screen for gene regulatory elements in the Isl1 locus using a novel dual reporter gene vector that allows screens of large genomic regions through reporter gene assays in vitro and in vivo. We identified regions from the Isl1 gene locus that confer transcriptional activity in pancreatic cell lines in vitro. Using transgenic mice, we furthermore discovered an enhancer with in vivo specificity for the developing heart, as well as visceral and posterior mesoderm. Our findings further suggest that Foxo1 as well as Gata4 contribute to the activity of this enhancer in the developing embryo. We conclude that Isl1 gene expression is controlled in modular fashion by several elements with distinct functionality. Embryonic Isl1 expression in several tissues of mesodermal origin is driven by a specific enhancer that is located 3-6kb downstream of the gene.
PMCID: PMC3482124  PMID: 19598113
transgenic reporter; enhancer; heart mesoderm; cardiac crescent; lateral mesoderm
20.  Isl1 and Pou4f2 Form a Complex to Regulate Target Genes in Developing Retinal Ganglion Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92105.
Precise regulation of gene expression during biological processes, including development, is often achieved by combinatorial action of multiple transcription factors. The mechanisms by which these factors collaborate are largely not known. We have shown previously that Isl1, a Lim-Homeodomain transcription factor, and Pou4f2, a class IV POU domain transcription factor, co-regulate a set of genes required for retinal ganglion cell (RGC) differentiation. Here we further explore how these two factors interact to precisely regulate gene expression during RGC development. By GST pulldown assays, co-immunoprecipitation, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we show that Isl1 and Pou4f2 form a complex in vitro and in vivo, and identify the domains within these two proteins that are responsible for this interaction. By luciferase assay, in situ hybridization, and RNA-seq, we further demonstrate that the two factors contribute quantitatively to gene expression in the developing RGCs. Although each factor alone can activate gene expression, both factors are required to achieve optimal expression levels. Finally, we discover that Isl1 and Pou4f2 can interact with other POU and Lim-Homeodomain factors respectively, indicating the interactions between these two classes of transcription factors are prevalent in development and other biological processes.
PMCID: PMC3958441  PMID: 24643061
21.  The LIM Protein Ajuba Restricts the Second Heart Field Progenitor Pool by Regulating Isl1 Activity 
Developmental cell  2012;23(1):58-70.
Morphogenesis of the heart requires tight control of cardiac progenitor cell specification, expansion, and differentiation. Retinoic acid (RA) signaling restricts expansion of the second heart field (SHF), serving as an important morphogen in heart development. Here, we identify the LIM domain protein Ajuba as a crucial regulator of the SHF progenitor cell specification and expansion. Ajuba-deficient zebra-fish embryos show an increased pool of Isl1+ cardiac progenitors and, subsequently, dramatically increased numbers of cardiomyocytes at the arterial and venous poles. Furthermore, we show that Ajuba binds Isl1, represses its transcriptional activity, and is also required for autorepression of Isl1 expression in an RA-dependent manner. Lack of Ajuba abrogates the RA-dependent restriction of Isl1+ cardiac cells. We conclude that Ajuba plays a central role in regulating the SHF during heart development by linking RA signaling to the function of Isl1, a key transcription factor in cardiac progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC3671491  PMID: 22771034
22.  A DNA-binding mutant of TAL1 cooperates with LMO2 to cause T cell leukemia in mice 
Oncogene  2010;30(10):1252-1260.
The most common translocation in childhood T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) involves the LMO2 locus, resulting in ectopic expression of the LMO2 gene in human thymocytes. The LMO2 gene was also activated in patients with X-linked Severe Combined Immune Deficiency treated with gene therapy because of retroviral insertion in the LMO2 locus. The LMO2 insertions predisposed these children to T-ALL, yet how LMO2 contributes to T cell transformation remains unclear. The LIM (Lin 11, Isl-1, Mec-3) domain containing LMO2 protein regulates erythropoiesis as part of a large transcriptional complex consisting of LMO2, TAL1, E47, GATA1 and LDB1 that recognizes bipartite E-box-GATA1 sites on target genes. Similarly, a TAL1/E47/LMO2/LDB1 complex is observed in human T-ALL and Tal1 and Lmo2 expression in mice results in disease acceleration. To address the mechanism(s) of Tal1/Lmo2 synergy in leukemia, we generated Lmo2 transgenic mice and mated them with mice that express wild-type Tal1 or a DNA-binding mutant of TAL1. Tal1/Lmo2 and MutTAL1/Lmo2 bitransgenic mice exhibit perturbations in thymocyte development due to reduced E47/HEB transcriptional activity and develop leukemia with identical kinetics. These data demonstrate that the DNA-binding activity of Tal1 is not required to cooperate with Lmo2 to cause leukemia in mice and suggest that Lmo2 may cooperate with Tal1 to interfere with E47/HEB function(s).
PMCID: PMC3691994  PMID: 21057528
TAL1; Lmo2; E47; HEB; T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL)
23.  Hair Cell Overexpression of Islet1 Reduces Age-Related and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(38):15086-15094.
Isl1 is a LIM-homeodomain transcription factor that is critical in the development and differentiation of multiple tissues. In the mouse inner ear, Isl1 is expressed in the prosensory region of otocyst, in young hair cells and supporting cells, and is no longer expressed in postnatal auditory hair cells. To evaluate how continuous Isl1 expression in postnatal hair cells affects hair cell development and cochlear function, we created a transgenic mouse model in which the Pou4f3 promoter drives Isl1 overexpression specifically in hair cells. Isl1 overexpressing hair cells develop normally, as seen by morphology and cochlear functions (auditory brainstem response and otoacoustic emissions). As the mice aged to 17 months, wild-type (WT) controls showed the progressive threshold elevation and outer hair cell loss characteristic of the age-related hearing loss (ARHL) in the background strain (C57BL/6J). In contrast, the Isl1 transgenic mice showed significantly less threshold elevation with survival of hair cells. Further, the Isl1 overexpression protected the ear from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL): both ABR threshold shifts and hair cell death were significantly reduced when compared with WT littermates. Our model suggests a common mechanism underlying ARHL and NIHL, and provides evidence that hair cell-specific Isl1 expression can promote hair cell survival and therefore minimize the hearing impairment that normally occurs with aging and/or acoustic overexposure.
PMCID: PMC3776061  PMID: 24048839
24.  Diverse expression patterns of LIM-homeodomain transcription factors (LIM-HDs) in mammalian inner ear development 
LIM-homeodomain transcription factors (LIM-HDs) are essential in tissue patterning and differentiation. But their expression patterns in the inner ear are largely unknown. Here we report on a study of twelve LIM-HDs, by their tempo-spatial patterns that imply distinct yet overlapping roles, in the developing mouse inner ear. Expression of Lmx1a and Isl1 begins in the otocyst stage, with Lmx1a exclusively in the non-sensory and Isl1 in the prosensory epithelia. The second wave of expression at E12.5 includes Lhx3, 5, 9, Isl2 and Lmx1b in the differentiating sensory epithelia with cellular specificities. With the exception of Lmx1a and Lhx3, all LIM-HDs are expressed in ganglion neurons. Expression of multiple LIM-HDs within a cell type suggests their redundant function.
PMCID: PMC2860607  PMID: 18942141
LIM-HD; development; Inner ear; hair cells; differentiation
25.  ISL1 Common Variant rs1017 Is Not Associated with Susceptibility to Congenital Heart Disease in a Chinese Population 
Background: ISL1, as a member of the LIM homeodomain transcription factor family, is expressed in a distinct population of undifferentiated cardiac progenitors and plays a pivotal role in cardiogenesis. Lacking ISL1 expression results in growth arrest or displays profound defects in heart development, including atria, ventricle, and the inflow and outflow tracts, which constitute a major form of congenital heart disease (CHD). Recently, an important study by Stevens et al. found that genetic variation in ISL1 is associated with risk of CHD in white and black/African American populations; this observation led us to hypothesize that ISL1 common variants might influence susceptibility to sporadic CHD in our Chinese population. Methods: We conducted a case–control study of CHD in Chinese to test our hypothesis by genotyping ISL1 common variant rs1017 in 1003 CHD cases and 1012 non-CHD controls. Results: We found that rs1017 was not associated with the risk of CHD (p=0.213). When we performed stratified analyses according to subjects' age, sex, and CHD classifications, we found no overall heterogeneity of risk in different subgroups. Conclusions: This is the first study which indicates that ISL1 common variant rs1017 may not play a role in sporadic CHD susceptibility in the Chinese population.
PMCID: PMC3396000  PMID: 22480195

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