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The field of molecular embryology started around 1990 by identifying new genes and analyzing their functions in early vertebrate embryogenesis. Those genes encode transcription factors, signaling molecules, their regulators, etc. Most of those genes are relatively highly expressed in specific regions or exhibit dramatic phenotypes when ectopically expressed or mutated. This review focuses on one of those genes, Lim1/Lhx1, which encodes a transcription factor. Lim1/Lhx1 is a member of the LIM homeodomain (LIM-HD) protein family, and its intimate partner, Ldb1/NLI, binds to two tandem LIM domains of LIM-HDs. The most ancient LIM-HD protein and its partnership with Ldb1 were innovated in the metazoan ancestor by gene fusion combining LIM domains and a homeodomain and by creating the LIM domain-interacting domain (LID) in ancestral Ldb, respectively. The LIM domain has multiple interacting interphases, and Ldb1 has a dimerization domain (DD), the LID, and other interacting domains that bind to Ssbp2/3/4 and the boundary factor, CTCF. By means of these domains, LIM-HD-Ldb1 functions as a hub protein complex, enabling more intricate and elaborate gene regulation. The common, ancestral role of LIM-HD proteins is neuron cell-type specification. Additionally, Lim1/Lhx1 serves crucial roles in the gastrula organizer and in kidney development. Recent studies using Xenopus embryos have revealed Lim1/Lhx1 functions and regulatory mechanisms during development and regeneration, providing insight into evolutionary developmental biology, functional genomics, gene regulatory networks, and regenerative medicine. In this review, we also discuss recent progress at unraveling participation of Ldb1, Ssbp, and CTCF in enhanceosomes, long-distance enhancer-promoter interactions, and trans-interactions between chromosomes. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Yuuri Yasuoka, Masanori Taira. LIM homeodomain proteins and associated partners: Then and now. Current topics in developmental biology. 2021;145:113-166

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PMID: 34074528

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