Comparative analysis of the ATRX promoter and 5' regulatory region reveals conserved regulatory elements which are linked to roles in neurodevelopment, alpha-globin regulation and testicular function
BACKGROUND: ATRX is a tightly-regulated multifunctional protein with crucial roles in mammalian development. Mutations in the ATRX gene cause ATR-X syndrome, an X-linked recessive developmental disorder resulting in severe mental retardation and mild alpha-thalassemia with facial, skeletal and genital abnormalities. Although ubiquitously expressed the clinical features of the syndrome indicate that ATRX is not likely to be a global regulator of gene expression but involved in regulating specific target genes. The regulation of ATRX expression is not well understood and this is reflected by the current lack of identified upstream regulators. The availability of genomic data from a range of species and the very highly conserved 5' regulatory regions of the ATRX gene has allowed us to investigate putative transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) in evolutionarily conserved regions of the mammalian ATRX promoter. RESULTS: We identified 12 highly conserved TFBSs of key gene regulators involved in biologically relevant processes such as neural and testis development and alpha-globin regulation. CONCLUSIONS: Our results reveal potentially important regulatory elements in the ATRX gene which may lead to the identification of upstream regulators of ATRX and aid in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie ATR-X syndrome.