Ets homologous factor (EHF) is an Ets family transcription factor expressed in many epithelial cell types including those lining the respiratory system. Disruption of the airway epithelium is central to many lung diseases, and a network of transcription factors coordinates its normal function. EHF can act as a transcriptional activator or a repressor, though its targets in lung epithelial cells are largely uncharacterized. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-seq), showed that the majority of EHF binding sites in lung epithelial cells are intergenic or intronic and coincide with putative enhancers, marked by specific histone modifications. EHF occupies many genomic sites that are close to genes involved in intercellular and cell-matrix adhesion. RNA-seq after EHF depletion or overexpression showed significant alterations in the expression of genes involved in response to wounding. EHF knockdown also targeted genes in pathways of epithelial development and differentiation and locomotory behavior. These changes in gene expression coincided with alterations in cellular phenotype including slowed wound closure and increased transepithelial resistance. Our data suggest that EHF regulates gene pathways critical for epithelial response to injury, including those involved in maintenance of barrier function, inflammation and efficient wound repair.
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