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Signal Transduction: Tumor Suppressor Genes and Biology of the Cell

Elf-2, a rhombotin-2 binding ets transcription factor: discovery and potential role in T cell leukemia


Rhombotin-2 (RBTN-2) is a proto-oncogene only in the context of T lymphocytes. We postulated that the oncogenic effect of RBTN-2 in T cells is likely mediated by binding protein(s) with T cell-specific expression. By screening a T cell cDNA library, we identified a novel ets transcription factor that binds RBTN-2. This protein was named elf-2 because its DNA-binding domain is virtually identical to that of ets family member elf-1. Northern analyses showed similar levels of two elf-2 transcripts (3.5 kb and 3.8 kb) in all tissues except thymus. Thymocytes expressed four- to 10-fold greater amounts of the 3.5 kb transcript than other tissues. Sequence analyses of cDNA clones indicated that these transcripts encode proteins differing only at their amino termini, and likely represent alternatively spliced isoforms. These isoforms (elf-2a and elf-2b) contain identical RBTN-2 binding regions and DNA-binding domains. Elf-2b lacks a putative transactivation domain. The expression patterns suggest that RBTN-2 normally interacts equally with elf-2a and elf-2b. In contrast, when RBTN-2 is inappropriately expressed in T cells, RBTN-2 would interact predominantly with elf-2b; this interaction may lead to T cell proliferation.

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Wilkinson, D., Neale, G., Mao, S. et al. Elf-2, a rhombotin-2 binding ets transcription factor: discovery and potential role in T cell leukemia. Leukemia 11, 86–96 (1997).

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  • ets transcription factor
  • rhombotin-2
  • T cell ALL

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