H1t is a novel linker histone variant synthesized in mid- to late pachytene spermatocytes. Its regulatory region is of interest because developmentally specific expression has been impressed on an otherwise ubiquitously expressed promoter. Using competitive band-shift assays and specific antisera, we have now shown that the H1t-60 CCTAGG palindrome motif region binds members of the RFX family of transcriptional regulators. The testis-specific binding complex contains RFX2, probably as a homodimer. Other DNA-protein complexes obtained from testis as well as somatic organs contain RFX1, primarily as a heterodimer. Western blots confirmed that RFX2 expression is greatly enhanced in adult testis and that RFX2 is equally prominent in highly enriched populations of late pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids. Immunohistochemistry carried out on mouse testis showed that RFX2 is strongly expressed in pachytene spermatocytes, remains high in early round spermatids, and declines only in advance of nuclear condensation. Maximum expression correlates well with the appearance of H1t. In contrast, RFX1 immunoreactivity in germ cells was only detected in late round spermatids. RFX-specific band complexes were also identified for both the mouse lamin C2 and Sgy promoters, using either testis nuclear extracts or in vitro-synthesized RFX2. These results call attention to RFX2 as a transcription factor with obvious potential for the regulation of gene expression during meiosis and the early development of spermatids.
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