Hoxa1 has important functional roles in neural crest specification, hindbrain patterning and heart and ear development, yet the enhancers and genes that are targeted by Hoxa1 are largely unknown. In this study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of Hoxa1 target genes using genome-wide Hoxa1 binding data in mouse ES cells differentiated with retinoic acid (RA) into neural fates in combination with differential gene expression analysis in Hoxa1 gain- and loss-of-function mouse and zebrafish embryos. Our analyses reveal that Hoxa1-bound regions show epigenetic marks of enhancers, occupancy of Hox cofactors and differential expression of nearby genes, suggesting that these regions are enriched for enhancers. In support of this, 80 of them mapped to regions with known reporter activity in transgenic mouse embryos based on the Vista enhancer database. Two additional enhancers in Dok5 and Wls1 were shown to mediate neural expression in developing mouse and zebrafish. Overall, our analysis of the putative target genes indicate that Hoxa1 has input to components of major signaling pathways, including Wnt, TGF-β Hedgehog and Hippo, and frequently does so by targeting multiple components of a pathway such as secreted inhibitors, ligands, receptors and down-stream components. We also identified genes implicated in heart and ear development, neural crest migration and neuronal patterning and differentiation, which may underlie major Hoxa1 mutant phenotypes. Finally, we found evidence for a high degree of evolutionary conservation of many binding regions and downstream targets of Hoxa1 between mouse and zebrafish. Our genome-wide analyses in ES cells suggests that we have enriched for in vivo relevant target genes and pathways associated with functional roles of Hoxa1 in mouse development.
De Kumar, B., Parker, H. J., Paulson, A., Parrish, M. E., Zeitlinger, J., & Krumlauf, R. (2017). Hoxa1 targets signaling pathways during neural differentiation of ES cells and mouse embryogenesis. Developmental Biology, 432(1), 151–164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2017.09.033