Sex-determining region Y-related protein SOX13 is a diabetes autoantigen expressed in pancreatic islets.
The SOX (sex-determining region [SRY]-type high mobility group [HMG] box) family of transcription factors play key roles in determining cell fate during organ development. In this study, we have identified a new human SOX gene, SOX13, as encoding the type 1 diabetes autoantigen, islet cell antigen 12 (ICA12). Sequence analysis showed that SOX13 belongs to the class D subgroup of SOX transcription factors, which contain a leucine zipper motif and a region rich in glutamine. SOX13 autoantibodies occurred at a significantly higher frequency among 188 people with type 1 diabetes (18%) than among 88 with type 2 diabetes (6%) or 175 healthy control subjects (4%). Deletion mapping of the antibody epitopes showed that the autoantibodies were primarily directed against an epitope requiring the majority of the protein. SOX13 RNA was detected in most human tissues, with the highest levels in the pancreas, placenta, and kidney. Immunohistochemistry on sections of human pancreas identified SOX13 in the islets of Langerhans, where staining was mostly cytoplasmic. In mouse pancreas, Sox13 was present in the nucleus and cytoplasm of beta-cells as well as other islet cell types. Recombinant SOX13 protein bound to the SOX consensus DNA motif AACAAT, and binding was inhibited by homodimer formation. These observations-along with the known molecular interactions of the closely related protein, rainbow trout Sox23-suggest that SOX13 may be activated for nuclear import and DNA binding through heterodimer formation. In conclusion, we have identified ICA12 as the putative transcription factor SOX13 and demonstrated an increased frequency of autoantibody reactivity in sera from type 1 diabetic subjects compared with type 2 diabetic and healthy control subjects.