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Molecular and cellular endocrinology

HNF1 regulates critical processes in the human epididymis epithelium.


PMID 26808453

Abstract

The luminal environment of the epididymis participates in sperm maturation and impacts male fertility. It is dependent on the coordinated expression of many genes encoding proteins with a role in epithelial transport. We identified cis-regulatory elements for critical genes in epididymis function, by mapping open chromatin genome-wide in human epididymis epithelial (HEE) cells. Bioinformatic predictions of transcription factors binding to the regulatory elements suggested an important role for hepatocyte nuclear factor 1 (HNF1) in the transcriptional program of these cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) revealed HNF1 target genes in HEE cells. In parallel, the contribution of HNF1 to the transcriptome of HEE cells was determined by RNA-seq, following siRNA-mediated depletion of both HNF1α and HNF1β transcription factors. Repression of these factors caused differential expression of 1892 transcripts (902 were downregulated and 990 upregulated) in comparison to non-targeting siRNAs. Differentially expressed genes with HNF1 ChIP-seq peaks within 20 kb were subject to gene ontology process enrichment analysis. Among the most significant processes associated with down-regulated genes were epithelial transport of water, phosphate and bicarbonate, all critical processes in epididymis epithelial function. Measurements of intracellular pH (pHi) confirmed a role for HNF1 in regulating the epididymis luminal environment.