FoxJ1 is a forkhead transcription factor expressed in multiple tissues during development and a major regulator of cilia development. FoxJ1−/− mice present with defects in odontogenesis, and we correlate these defects to hierarchical interactions between homeodomain factors Pitx2 and Dlx2 with FoxJ1 in regulating their expression through direct physical interactions. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays reveal endogenous Pitx2 and Dlx2 binding to the Dlx2 promoter and Dlx2 binding to the FoxJ1 promoter as well as Dlx2 and FoxJ1 binding to the amelogenin promoter. PITX2 activation of the Dlx2 promoter is attenuated by a direct Dlx2 physical interaction with PITX2. Dlx2 autoregulates its promoter, and Dlx2 transcriptionally activates the downstream gene FoxJ1. Dlx2 and FoxJ1 physically interact and synergistically regulate both Dlx2 and FoxJ1 promoters. Dlx2 and FoxJ1 also activate the amelogenin promoter, and amelogenin is required for enamel formation and late stage tooth development. FoxJ1−/− mice maxillary and mandibular incisors are reduced in length and width and have reduced amelogenin expression. FoxJ1−/− mice show a reduced and defective ameloblast layer, revealing a biological effect of these transcription factor hierarchies during tooth morphogenesis. These transcriptional mechanisms may contribute to other developmental processes such as neuronal, pituitary, and heart development
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