CD3-epsilon gene expression is confined to the T cell lineage. We have recently identified and cloned a human transcription factor, TCF-1, that binds to a functional element in the T lymphocyte-specific enhancer of CD3-epsilon. In a panel of human cell lines, TCF-1 expression was restricted to T lineage cells. TCF-1 belonged to a novel family of genes that contain the so-called high mobility group 1 (HMG) box. Here we report the cloning of murine TCF-1. Two splice alternatives were identified that were not previously observed in human TCF-1. Murine and human TCF-1 displayed a 95.5% overall amino acid homology. Recombinant murine and human TCF-1 recognized the same sequence motif in the CD3-epsilon enhancer as judged by gel retardation and methylation interference assays. With the murine cDNA clones several aspects of TCF-1 were analyzed. First, deletion analysis revealed that a region of TCF-1 containing the HMG box was sufficient for sequence-specific binding. Second, by high stringency Northern blotting and in situ hybridization, TCF-1 expression was shown to be confined to the thymus and to the T cell areas of the spleen. Third, TCF-1 bound specifically to a functional T cell-specific element in the T cell receptor alpha (TCR-alpha) enhancer. The T lineage-specific expression and the affinity for functional motifs in the TCR-alpha and CD3-epsilon enhancers imply an important role for TCF-1 in the establishment of the mature T cell phenotype.

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