Mouse abdominal B-like Hoxa genes are expressed and functionally required in the developing reproductive tracts. Mice lacking either Hoxa-10 or Hoxa-11, two of the AbdB Hoxa genes, exhibit abnormal uterine development similar to that induced by in utero diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure. Indeed, uterine Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 expression is potently repressed by perinatal DES exposure, providing a potential molecular mechanism for DES-induced reproductive tract malformations. We have shown previously that DES can permanently alter uterine lactoferrin gene expression through modulation of the lactoferrin promoter methylation pattern. Here we ask whether a similar mechanism also functions to deregulate uterine Hoxa-10 or Hox-11 expression during neonatal DES exposure. We mapped the Hoxa-10 promoter by cloning a 1.485 kb DNA fragment 5′ of the Hoxa-10 exonla. A 5′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) experiment revealed a transcription start site for the a10-1 transcript. Functional analysis of the proximal 200-bp sequences demonstrated significant promoter activity, confirming the location of the Hoxa-10 promoter. Moreover, methylation assays performed on eight CpGs in Hoxa-10 and 19 CpGs in Hoxa-11 proximal promoters demonstrated that all these CpGs were highly unmethylated in both control and DES-dosed mice from postnatal day 5 to day 30. Significant methylation around Hoxa-10 and Hoxa-11 promoters was only observed in DES-induced uterine carcinomas in 18-mo-old mice. Our results suggest that DES-induced downregulations of Hoxa-10 or Hoxa-11 gene expression are not associated with methylation changes in their proximal promoters and that gene imprinting by developmental DES exposure may be a gene-specific phenomenon. Published 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)