SRY directly regulates the neurotrophin 3 promoter during male sex determination and testis development in rats.
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Neurotrophin 3 (Ntf3) is expressed in Sertoli cells and acts as a chemo-attractant for cell migration from the mesonephros into the developing testis, a process critical to the early morphological events of testis cord formation. The male sex-determining gene Sry initiates the process of testicular development. Sox9 is a key regulator of male sex determination and is directly regulated by SRY. Information on other downstream target genes of SRY is limited. The current study demonstrates an interaction of SRY with the Ntf3 promoter both in vitro and in vivo. The Ntf3 promoter in both rat and mouse contains at least one putative SRY binding site in the -0.6 kb promoter region. In a luciferase reporter assay system, both SRY and SOX9 stimulated the Ntf3 promoter in vitro through an interaction with this SRY-binding motif. In an immunoprecipitation-based pull-down assay, recombinant SRY protein bound the Ntf3 promoter fragment containing an intact SRY binding site, whereas the same protein did not interact with the fragment containing a mutated SRY motif. Specific antibodies against SRY were used in a chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay of embryonic testis and were found to precipitate the Ntf3 promoter region. The SRY ChIP assay confirmed the direct interaction between SRY and the Ntf3 promoter in vivo during male sex determination. Observations suggest that SRY physically interacts with the Ntf3 promoter during male sex determination to coordinate cell migration in the testis to form testis cords.