05 - Evolution of NF-?B Transcription Factor Signaling
The NF-?B family of eukaryotic transcription factors is involved in a variety of cellular and organismal processes including immune and stress responses, cellular growth, and development. However, little is known about the evolutionary origins of NF-?B or its biological function(s) in basal organisms. Thus, we have been characterizing NF-?B proteins and signaling in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, which is a model organism for the phylum Cnidaria (anemones, coral, jellyfish, hydra). Using protein binding microarrays, we have shown that human and Nematostella proteins bind to similar DNA target sites. Based on those and other data, we have computationally predicted target genes in Nematostella. Interestingly, several of these predicted Nematostella NF-?B target genes are homologues of vertebrate genes involved in anti-viral and innate immune responses. We are now attempting to determine whether those predicted genes are direct targets of Nematostella NF-?B in tissue culture and whole animal reporter gene assays. As part of these studies, we are attempting to develop techniques to observe NF-?B activity in live animals by creating transgenic anemones that carry a fluorescent reporter gene downstream of an NF-?B binding site. These studies will reveal information about the evolutionary origins of NF-?B signaling, may shed light on the origins of pathogen immune responses, and may have relevance to the ecological health of threatened marine species.