CDK9/cyclin complexes modulate endoderm induction by direct interaction with Mix.3/mixer



Mix-related homeodomain proteins are involved in endoderm formation in the early vertebrate embryo. We used a yeast two-hybrid screen to identify proteins that interact with Mix.3/mixer to regulate endoderm induction. We demonstrate that cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) interacts with the carboxyl terminal domain of Mix.3. CDK9 is the catalytic subunit of the PTEF-b transcription elongation complex that phosphorylates the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II to promote efficient elongation of nascent transcripts. Using whole embryo transcription reporter and animal pole explant assays, we show that Mix.3 activity is regulated by CDK9/cyclin complexes. Co-expression of cyclin T2 and cyclin K had different effects on Mix.3 transcriptional activity and endoderm induction. Our data suggest that binding of CDK9, and the recruitment of different cyclin partners, can modulate the endoderm-inducing activity of Mix.3 during embryonic development. Developmental Dynamics 238:1346–1357, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.