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Zinc finger protein SALL4 functions through an AT-rich motif to regulate gene expression

By Nikki R. Kong, Mahmoud A. Bassal, Hong Kee Tan, Jesse V Kurland, Kol Jia Yong, John J. Young, Yang Yang, Fudong Li, Jonathan Lee, Yue Liu, Chan-Shuo Wu, Alicia Stein, Hongbo Luo, Leslie E. Silberstein, Martha L. Bulyk, Daniel Geoffrey Tenen, Li Chai

Posted 04 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.03.186783

The zinc finger transcription factor SALL4 is highly expressed in embryonic stem cells, down-regulated in most adult tissues, but reactivated in many aggressive cancers. This unique expression pattern makes SALL4 an attractive target for designing therapeutic strategies. However, whether SALL4 binds DNA directly to regulate gene expression is unclear and many of its targets in cancer cells remain elusive. Here, through an unbiased screen of protein binding microarray (PBM) and Cleavage Under Targets and Release Using Nuclease (CUT&RUN) experiments, we identified and validated the DNA binding domain of SALL4 and its consensus binding sequence. Combined with RNA-seq analyses after SALL4 knockdown, we discovered hundreds of new SALL4 target genes that it directly regulates in aggressive liver cancer cells, including genes encoding a family of Histone 3 Lysine 9-specific Demethylases (KDMs). Taken together, these results elucidated the mechanism of SALL4 DNA binding and revealed novel pathways and molecules to target in SALL4-dependent tumors. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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