Endothelin-converting enzyme-1 (Ece-1), a crucial component of the Endothelin signaling pathway, is required for embryonic development and is an important regulator of vascular tone, yet the transcriptional regulation of the ECE1 gene has remained largely unknown. Here, we define the activity and regulation of an enhancer from the human ECE1 locus in vivo. The enhancer identified here becomes active in endothelial progenitor cells shortly after their initial specification and is dependent on a conserved FOX:ETS motif, a composite binding site for Forkhead transcription factors and the Ets transcription factor Etv2, for activity in vivo. The ECE1 FOX:ETS motif is bound and cooperatively activated by FoxC2 and Etv2, but unlike other described FOX:ETS-dependent enhancers, ECE1 enhancer activity becomes restricted to arterial endothelium and endocardium by embryonic day 9.5 in transgenic mouse embryos. The ECE1 endothelial enhancer also contains an evolutionarily-conserved, consensus SOX binding site, which is required for activity in transgenic mouse embryos. Importantly, the ECE1 SOX site is bound and activated by Sox17, a transcription factor involved in endothelial cell differentiation and an important regulator of arterial identity. Moreover, the ECE1 enhancer is cooperatively activated by the combinatorial action of FoxC2, Etv2, and Sox17. Although Sox17 is required for arterial identity, few direct transcriptional targets have been identified in endothelial cells. Thus, this work has important implications for our understanding of endothelial specification and arterial subspecification.
Robinson, A. S., Materna, S. C., Barnes, R. M., De Val, S., Xu, S. M., & Black, B. L. (2014). An arterial-specific enhancer of the human endothelin converting enzyme 1 (ECE1) gene is synergistically activated by Sox17, FoxC2, and Etv2. Developmental Biology, 395(2), 379–389. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2014.08.027