BACKGROUND: Sp4 is a zinc finger transcription factor which is closely related to Sp1 and Sp3. All three proteins recognize the same DNA elements and can act as transcriptional activators through glutamine-rich activation domains. Unlike Sp1 and Sp3, which are ubiquitous proteins, Sp4 is highly abundant in the central nervous system, but also detectable in many other tissues. RESULTS: We have disrupted the mouse Sp4 gene by a targeted deletion of the exons encoding the N-terminal activation domains. Sp4 knockout mice show a complete absence of Sp4 expression. They develop until birth without obvious abnormalities. After birth, two-thirds die within 4 weeks. Surviving mice are growth retarded. Male Sp4null mice do not breed. The cause for the breeding defect remains obscure since they show complete spermatogenesis. In addition, pheromone receptor genes in the vomeronasal organ appear unaffected. Female Sp4null mice have a smaller thymus, spleen and uterus. CONCLUSIONS: The phenotype of the Sp4null mice differs significantly from those described for Sp1-/- and Sp3-/- mice. Thus, the structural similarities, the common recognition motif and the overlapping expression pattern of these three transcription factors do not reflect similar physiological functions. In addition, they exhibit a pronounced delay in sexual maturation.

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Genes to Cells
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam