Insm1 controls development of pituitary endocrine cells and requires a SNAG domain for function and for recruitment of histone-modifying factors


  • J.E. Welcker
  • L.R. Hernandez-Miranda
  • F.E. Paul
  • S. Jia
  • A. Ivanov
  • M. Selbach
  • C. Birchmeier


  • Development


  • Development 140 (24): 4947-4958


  • The Insm1 gene encodes a zinc finger factor expressed in many endocrine organs. We show here that Insm1 is required for differentiation of all endocrine cells in the pituitary. Thus, in Insm1 mutant mice, hormones characteristic of the different pituitary cell types (thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, melanocyte-stimulating hormone, adrenocorticotrope hormone, growth hormone and prolactin) are absent or produced at markedly reduced levels. This differentiation deficit is accompanied by upregulated expression of components of the Notch signaling pathway, and by prolonged expression of progenitor markers, such as Sox2. Furthermore, skeletal muscle-specific genes are ectopically expressed in endocrine cells, indicating that Insm1 participates in the repression of an inappropriate gene expression program. Because Insm1 is also essential for differentiation of endocrine cells in the pancreas, intestine and adrenal gland, it is emerging as a transcription factor that acts in a pan-endocrine manner. The Insm1 factor contains a SNAG domain at its N-terminus, and we show here that the SNAG domain recruits histone-modifying factors (Kdm1a, Hdac1/2 and Rcor1-3) and other proteins implicated in transcriptional regulation (Hmg20a/b and Gse1). Deletion of sequences encoding the SNAG domain in mice disrupted differentiation of pituitary endocrine cells, and resulted in an upregulated expression of components of the Notch signaling pathway and ectopic expression of skeletal muscle-specific genes. Our work demonstrates that Insm1 acts in the epigenetic and transcriptional network that controls differentiation of endocrine cells in the anterior pituitary gland, and that it requires the SNAG domain to exert this function in vivo.