Tagged versions of HNF4 or HNF1alpha cDNAs in expression vectors have been introduced by transient and stable transfection into three cell lines of hepatic origin that all fail to express these two liver-enriched transcription factors and hepatic functions. C2 and H5 cells are dedifferentiated rat hepatoma variants and WIF12-E cells are human fibroblast-rat hepatoma hybrids with a reduced complement of human chromosomes. Transfectants were analyzed for the expression state of the endogenous genes coding for these transcription factors and for hepatic functions. Each cell line showed a different response to the forced expression of the transcription factors. In C2 cells, no measurable effect was observed, either upon transitory or stable expression. H5 cells reexpressed the endogenous HNF4 gene only upon transient HNF1alpha transfection, and the endogenous HNF1alpha gene only in stable HNF4 transfectants. WIF12-E cells responded to the forced transient or stable expression of either HNF1alpha or HNF4 by cross-activation of the corresponding endogenous gene. In addition, the stable transfectants reexpress HNF3alpha and C/EBPalpha, as well as all of the hepatic functions examined. Hybrid cells similar to WIF12-E had previously been observed to show pleiotropic reexpression of the hepatic phenotype in parallel with loss of human chromosome 2. For the stable WIF12-E transfectants, it was verified that reexpression of the hepatic phenotype was not due to loss of human chromosome 2. The demonstration of reciprocal cross-regulation between HNF4 and HNF1alpha in transient as well as stable transfectants implies that direct effects are involved.

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