Differential transcription factor expression by human epithelial cells of buccal and urothelial derivation

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Identification of transcription factors expressed by differentiated cells is informative not only of tissue-specific pathways, but to help identify master regulators for cellular reprogramming. If applied, such an approach could generate healthy autologous tissue-specific cells for clinical use where cells from the homologous tissue are unavailable due to disease. Normal human epithelial cells of buccal and urothelial derivation maintained in identical culture conditions that lacked significant instructive or permissive signaling cues were found to display inherent similarities and differences of phenotype. Investigation of transcription factors implicated in driving urothelial-type differentiation revealed buccal epithelial cells to have minimal or absent expression of PPARG, GATA3 and FOXA1 genes. Retroviral overexpression of protein coding sequences for GATA3 or PPARy1 in buccal epithelial cells resulted in nuclear immunolocalisation of the respective proteins, with both transductions also inducing expression of the urothelial differentiation-associated claudin 3 tight junction protein. PPARG1 overexpression alone entrained expression of nuclear FOXA1 and GATA3 proteins, providing objective evidence of its upstream positioning in a transcription factor network and identifying it as a candidate factor for urothelial-type transdifferentiation or reprogramming.

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