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1.  Transcriptional regulation of BRD7 expression by Sp1 and c-Myc 
BMC Molecular Biology  2008;9:111.
Bromodomain is an evolutionally conserved domain that is found in proteins strongly implicated in signal-dependent transcriptional regulation. Genetic alterations of bromodomain genes contributed to the development of many human cancers and other disorders. BRD7 is a recently identified bromodomain gene. It plays a critical role in cellular growth, cell cycle progression, and signal-dependent gene expression. Previous studies showed that BRD7 gene exhibited much higher-level of mRNA expression in normal nasopharyngeal epithelia than in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) biopsies and cell lines. However, little is known about its transcriptional regulation. In this study, we explored the transcriptional regulation of BRD7 gene.
Potential binding sites of transcription factors within the promoter region of BRD7 gene were predicted with MatInspector Professional . Mutation construct methods and luciferase assays were performed to define the minimal promoter of BRD7 gene. RT-PCR and western blot assays were used to detect the endogenous expression of transcription factor Sp1, c-Myc and E2F6 in all cell lines used in this study. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) and Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) were used to detect the direct transcription factors that are responsible for the promoter activity of BRD7 gene. DNA vector-based siRNA technology and cell transfection methods were employed to establish clone pools that stably expresses SiRNA against c-Myc expression in nasopharyngeal carcinoma 5-8F cells. Real-time PCR was used to detect mRNA expression of BRD7 gene in 5-8F/Si-c-Myc cells.
We defined the minimal promoter of BRD7 gene in a 55-bp region (from -266 to -212bp), and identified that its promoter activity is inversely related to c-Myc expression. Sp1 binds to the Sp1/Myc-Max overlapping site of BRD7 minimal promoter, and slightly positively regulate its promoter activity. c-Myc binds to this Sp1/Myc-Max overlapping site as well, and negatively regulates the promoter activity and endogenous mRNA expression of BRD7 gene. Knock-down of c-Myc increases the promoter activity and mRNA level of BRD7 gene. The luciferase activity of the mutated promoter constructs showed that Sp1/Myc-Max overlapping site is a positive regulation element of BRD7 promoter.
These studies provide for the first time the evidence that c-Myc is indeed a negative regulator of BRD7 gene. These findings will help to further understand and uncover the bio-functions of BRD7 gene involved in the pathogenesis of NPC.
PMCID: PMC2632634  PMID: 19111069
2.  The screening and functional study of proteins binding with the BmNPV polyhedrin promoter 
Virology Journal  2012;9:90.
The polyhedrin gene promoter has an essential role in regulating foreign gene expression in baculovirus expression vector systems (BEVS); however, the high-level transcription mechanism is still unknown. One-hybrid screening in yeast is a powerful way of identifying rapidly heterologous transcription factors that can interact with the polyhedrin promoter DNA sequence. In the current study, total RNA was extracted from the fat bodies of fifth-instar silkworm larvae that had been infected with Bombyx mori nuclear polyhedrosis virus (BmNPV) for 5 days; complementary DNA (cDNA) was then generated using reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR to construct a silkworm gene expression library. Key polyhedrin promoter bait sequences were synthesized to generate a bait yeast strain, which was used to screen the one-hybrid cDNA library.
In total, 12 positive yeast colonies were obtained from the SD/-Leu/AbA plates; sequencing analysis showed that they belong to two different protein cDNA colonies. Positive colonies underwent bioinformatics analysis, which revealed one colony to be ribosomal proteins [B. mori ribosomal protein SA (BmRPSA)] and the other to be NPV DNA-binding proteins (DBP). To further verify the regulatory function of these two protein groups, transient expression vectors (pSK-IE-dbp and pSK-IE-BmRPSA) were constructed. The recombinant plasmids were then transfected into cultured B. mori N (BmN) cells, which had been infected with a recombinant bacmid containing the gene encoding luciferase (luc). The results showed that overexpression of either dbp or BmRPSA upregulated the polh promoter-driven transcription of luc in BmN cells. In addition, dbp or BmRPSA RNA interference (RNAi) resulted in the downregulation of luciferase reporter expression in BmN cells, demonstrating that DBP and BmRPSA are important for luc transcription. EMSA results further confirmed that DBP could directly bind to the conserved single-stranded polh promoter region in intro. However, EMSA assay also showed that BmRPSA did not bind to this region, precluding a direct DNA association.
Both DBP and BmRPSA are important for polh transcription. DBP can regulate polh promoter activity by direct binding to the conserved single-stranded polh promoter region, BmRPSA may regulate polh promoter activity by indirect binding to this region.
PMCID: PMC3422170  PMID: 22559085
3.  Stat3 and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta (C/EBP-beta) regulate Jab1/CSN5 expression in mammary carcinoma cells 
The c-Jun coactivator, Jun activation-domain binding protein 1 (Jab1) also known as the fifth component of the COP9 signalosome complex (CSN5), is a novel candidate oncogene whose aberrant expression contributes to the progression of breast carcinoma and other human cancers. The mechanism of Jab1 gene expression and its deregulation in cancer cells remains to be identified. We therefore investigated the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms of Jab1 expression in human breast carcinoma cells.
To identify potential regulators of Jab1 transcription, we cloned the 5' upstream region of the human Jab1 gene and mapped its transcriptional start site. We identified binding sequences for the CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) and GATA, as well as a signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (Stat3) consensus sequence overlapping the C/EBP site, using 5'- deletion analysis and a gene reporter assay. Mutational analysis of these binding sites was performed to confirm their roles in promoting Jab1 transcription in breast cancer cells. We further confirmed these binding sites using electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays. We also analyzed whether the siRNA-mediated inactivation of Stat3 and Src could reduce Jab1-promoter activity and whether interleukine-6 (IL-6) could mediate increased Jab1 expression through Stat3 signaling.
We identified binding sequences for C/EBP, GATA, as well as a Stat3 consensus sequence overlapping the C/EBP site in the promoter region of Jab1. C/EBP-beta2 is a potential transcriptional activator of Jab1 and mutation of the C/EBP/Stat3 binding site significantly reduced Jab1-promoter activity. In addition, inhibiting Stat3 significantly reduced Jab1-promoter activation. EMSA and ChIP assays confirmed that C/EBP, GATA1 and Stat3 bind to Jab1 promoter in breast carcinoma cells. We also found that Src, an activator of Stat3, is involved in Jab1-promoter activation. siRNA knockdown of Src reduced the Jab1-promoter activity, similar to the results seen when Stat3 was inhibited in breast carcinoma cells. Interestingly, reactivation of Stat3 in normal mammary epithelial cells (MCF-10A, MCF-10F) is sufficient to reactivate Jab1 expression. Treatment with the cytokine IL-6 resulted in increased Jab1 expression that was blocked by inhibition of Stat3.
These findings reveal a novel mechanism of Jab1 gene regulation and provide functional and mechanistic links between the Src/Stat3 and IL-6/Stat3 signaling axes that are involved in the activation of Jab1 transcription and regulation of this novel oncogenic protein.
PMCID: PMC3218954  PMID: 21689417
4.  Transcription factor B cell lineage-specific activator protein regulates the gene for human X-box binding protein 1 
The transcription factor human X-box binding protein 1 (hXBP-1) is a basic region-leucine zipper protein implicated in the regulation of major histocompatibility complex class II gene expression as well as in exocrine gland and skeletal development. Multiple regulatory elements in the hXBP-1 promoter lie 3' to the transcription start site, including the hX2 site, whose core sequence is an AP-1-like element identical to the hXBP-1 target sequence in the HLA-DRA promoter. One complex identified by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), complex 3, was previously shown to protect the hX2 site and more 3' bases. Sequence analysis now shows that this region contains a consensus binding site for transcription factor BSAP (B cell lineage- specific activator protein). Complex 3 and BSAP have identical cell- type specificities, as they are found only in pre-B and mature B cell lines. In EMSAs, BSAP antibody specifically recognized complex 3, and in vitro translated BSAP could bind to an hXBP promoter fragment. Cotransfections using an hXBP-1 reporter construct indicated that BSAP downregulates the hXBP-1 promoter. The highest levels of hXBP-1 mRNA were found when BSAP was not expressed, in pre-Pro-B cells and in plasma cell lines. In addition, hXBP-1 and BSAP levels were inversely correlated along the early stages of B cell development. In the regulation of the hXBP-1 promoter, a strong positive transcriptional influence at the hX2 site is opposed by the downregulatory actions of BSAP.
PMCID: PMC2192461  PMID: 8627152
5.  Transcriptional Regulation of Rex1 (zfp42) in Normal Prostate Epithelial Cells and Prostate Cancer Cells 
Journal of Cellular Physiology  2010;224(1):17-27.
Rex1 (zfp42) was identified by our laboratory because of its reduced expression in F9 teratocarcinoma stem cells after retinoic acid (RA) treatment. The Rex1 (Zfp42) gene is currently widely used as a marker of embryonic stem cells. We compared the transcriptional regulation of the human Rex1 gene in NTera-2 (NT-2) human teratocarcinoma, normal human prostate epithelial cells (PrEC), and prostate cancer cells (PC-3) by promoter/luciferase analyses. Oct4, Sox2, Nanog, and Dax1 transcripts are expressed at higher levels in NT-2 and PrEC cells than in PC-3 cells. Co-transfection analyses showed that YY1 and Rex1 are positive regulators of hRex1 transcription in NT-2 and PrEC cells, whereas Nanog is not. Serial deletion constructs of the hRex1 promoter were created and analyzed, by which we identified a potential negative regulatory site that is located between -1kb to -0.4 kb of the hRex1 promoter. We also delineated regions of the hRex1 promoter between -0.4 kb and the TSS that, when mutated, reduced transcriptional activation; these are putative Rex1 binding sites. Mutation of a putative Rex1 binding site in electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) resulted in reduced protein binding. Taken together, our results indicate that hRex1 binds to the hRex1 promoter region at -298 bp and positively regulates hRex1 transcription, but that this regulation is lost in PC-3 human prostate cancer cells. This lack of positive transcriptional regulation by the hRex1 protein may be responsible for the lack of Rex1 expression in PC-3 prostate cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3306262  PMID: 20232320
stem cells; Rex1 (zfp42); differentiation; transcription; carcinoma; retinoic acid; retinoid; teratocarcinoma; epigenetics
6.  Role of CCAAT/Enhancer-Binding Protein Alpha (C/EBPα) in Activation of the Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) Lytic-Cycle Replication-Associated Protein (RAP) Promoter in Cooperation with the KSHV Replication and Transcription Activator (RTA) and RAP 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(1):600-623.
The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)-encoded replication-associated protein (RAP, or K8) has been shown to induce both CCAAT/enhancer binding protein alpha (C/EBPα) and p21CIP-1 expression, resulting in G0/G1 cell cycle arrest during the lytic cycle. RAP and C/EBPα are also known to interact strongly both in vitro and in lytically infected cells. We recognized two potential consensus C/EBP binding sites in the RAP promoter and performed electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) analysis with in vitro-translated C/EBPα; this analysis showed that one of these sites has a very high affinity for C/EBPα. Luciferase (LUC) assays performed with a target RAP promoter-LUC reporter gene confirmed that C/EBPα can transcriptionally activate the RAP promoter up to 50-fold. Although RAP had no effect on its own promoter by itself, the addition of RAP and C/EBPα together resulted in a threefold increase in activity over that obtained with C/EBPα alone. Importantly, the introduction of exogenous Flag-tagged C/EBPα triggered RAP expression in BCBL-1 cells latently infected with KSHV, as detected by both reverse transcription-PCR and double-label immunofluorescence assay analyses, suggesting the presence of a self-reinforcing loop with C/EBPα and RAP activating each other. The RAP promoter can also be activated 50- to 120-fold by the KSHV lytic-cycle-triggering protein known as replication and transcription activator (RTA). C/EBPα and RTA together cooperated to elevate RAP promoter activity four- to sixfold more than either alone. Furthermore, the addition of RAP, C/EBPα, and RTA in LUC reporter cotransfection assays resulted in 7- to 15-fold more activation than that seen with either C/EBPα or RTA alone. Site-specific mutational analysis of the RAP promoter showed that the strong C/EBP binding site is crucial for C/EBPα-mediated transactivation of the RAP promoter. However, the C/EBP binding site also overlaps the previously reported 16-bp RTA-responsive element (RRE), and the same mutation also both reduced RTA-mediated transactivation and abolished the cooperativity between C/EBPα and RTA. Furthermore, in vitro-translated RTA, although capable of binding directly to the polyadenylated nuclear RNA (PAN) RRE motif, failed to bind to the RAP RRE and interfered with RRE-bound C/EBPα in EMSA experiments. Partial RTA responsiveness but no cooperativity could be transferred to a heterologous promoter containing added consensus C/EBP binding sites. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay showed that all three proteins associated specifically with RAP promoter DNA in vivo and that, when C/EBPα was removed from a tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate-treated JSC-1 primary effusion lymphoma cell lysate, the levels of association of RTA and RAP with the RAP promoter were reduced 3- and 13-fold, respectively. Finally, RTA also proved to physically interact with both C/EBPα and RAP, as assayed both in vitro and by immunoprecipitation. Binding to C/EBPα occurred within the N-terminal DNA binding domain of RTA, and deletion of a 17-amino-acid basic motif of RTA abolished both the C/EBPα and DNA binding activities as well as all RTA transactivation and the cooperativity with C/EBPα. Therefore, we suggest that RTA transactivation of the RAP RRE is mediated by an interaction with DNA-bound C/EBPα but that full activity requires more than just the core C/EBP binding site.
PMCID: PMC140597  PMID: 12477864
7.  Association between DNA Methylation in the miR-328 5’-Flanking Region and Inter-individual Differences in miR-328 and BCRP Expression in Human Placenta 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72906.
MicroRNA (miRNA) are non-coding small RNA that regulate gene expression. MiR-328 is reported to influence breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) expression in cancer cells. As a large inter-individual difference in BCRP levels is observed in various human tissues, the contribution of miR-328 to these differences is of interest. We hypothesized that DNA methylation in the miR-328 promoter region is responsible for the difference in miR-328 levels, leading to inter-individual variability in BCRP levels in human placenta. The association between placental miR-328 and BCRP levels was analyzed, and then DNA methylation in the miR-328 5'-flanking region and regulatory mechanisms causing inter-individual differences in miR-328 and BCRP levels were examined. MiR-328 expression was significantly correlated with BCRP mRNA (Rs = -0.560, P < 0.01) and protein (Rs = -0.730, P < 0.01) levels. It was also up-regulated by the demethylating agent 5-aza-2’-deoxycytidine in BCRP-expressing cells. Luciferase assays with differentially methylated reporter constructs indicated that methylation in the miR-328 5’-flanking region including a predicted CpG island remarkably decreased transcriptional activity compared to that in unmethylated constructs. We selected CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα), located within the predicted CpG island, by in silico analysis. To elucidate the role of C/EBPα in miR-328 expression, a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, promoter deletion analysis, and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) were performed. C/EBPα-binding site-truncated constructs showed significantly decreased promoter activity, and EMSA indicated that the C/EBPα-binding sites were located in the CpG island. Finally, the methylation patterns of several CpG dinucleotides proximal to two C/EBPα-binding sites in the miR-328 5’-flanking region were correlated negatively with miR-328 levels, and positively with BCRP levels in human placental samples. These results suggest that methylation patterns in the miR-328 5’-flanking region are involved in the inter-individual difference in BCRP levels in human placenta.
PMCID: PMC3749162  PMID: 23991164
8.  Molecular characterization of senescence marker protein-30 gene promoter: Identification of repressor elements and functional nuclear factor binding sites 
Senescence marker protein-30 (SMP30), whose expression declines during aging in rat liver, has been proposed as an important aging marker. Besides apoptosis, SMP30 also protects cells against various other injuries by enhancement of membrane calcium-pump activity. The mechanism of this differential gene expression mechanism is not known. DNA-protein interactions, mutation analysis and luciferase reporter assay studies have been performed to elucidate the mechanism of transcriptional regulation of SMP30 gene.
We have characterized up to -2750 bp of the promoter by DNA-protein interactions studies. Twenty eight transcription factor binding sites have been identified by DNase I footprinting and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). Transient transfection of 5' and 3' -deleted promoter-reporter constructs and luciferase assay illustrated the region between -128/+157 bp is sufficient to drive promoter activity. We have mapped an essential regulatory region between -513 to -352 bp which causes a drastic decline of reporter activity. This region contains CdxA, GATA2 and SRY transcription factor binding sites. Individual mutation of these three sites showed increase in reporter activity. Mutation in SRY site (-403/-368) showed maximum increase in reporter activity among these three sites. Therefore, we suggest that SRY like protein may be acting as a strong repressor of SMP30 gene along with CdxA and GATA-2. We also report that mutation of both Sp1 (172/-148 bp) and a C/EBPβ (-190/-177 bp) transcription binding site located adjacent to each other on SMP30 gene promoter, causes a significant enhancement in reporter activity than individual mutation, thus may be causing the repression of SMP30 promoter activity.
These studies provide novel insights into the mechanism that regulate SMP30 gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2386801  PMID: 18442420
9.  Characterization of Interactions between RTA and the Promoter of Polyadenylated Nuclear RNA in Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus/Human Herpesvirus 8 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(10):5000-5013.
RTA (replication and transcription activator; also referred to as ORF50, Lyta, and ART), an immediate-early gene product of Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)/human herpesvirus 8, disrupts latency and drives lytic replication. RTA activates the expression of polyadenylated nuclear (PAN) RNA (also known as T1.1 or nut-1) of KSHV. This novel noncoding PAN RNA is the most abundant lytic transcript of KSHV; therefore, studying PAN RNA expression serves as a model system for understanding how RTA transactivates target genes during lytic replication. The RTA-responsive element of the PAN promoter (pPAN RRE) was previously identified, and our data suggested direct binding of full-length RTA to the pPAN RRE. Here, we present a detailed analysis of specific interactions between RTA and the PAN promoter. We expressed and purified the DNA-binding domain of RTA (Rdbd) to near homogeneity and measured its affinity for the pPAN RRE. In electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs), the dissociation constant (Kd) of Rdbd on the pPAN RRE was determined to be approximately 8 × 10−9 M, suggesting a strong interaction between RTA and DNA. The specificity of RTA binding to the PAN promoter was confirmed with supershift assays. The Rdbd binding sequences on the PAN promoter were mapped within a 16-bp region of the pPAN RRE by methylation interference assays. However, the minimal DNA sequence for Rdbd binding requires an additional 7 bp on both sides of the area mapped by interference assays, suggesting that non-sequence-specific as well as sequence-specific interactions between RTA and DNA contribute to high-affinity binding. To better understand the molecular interactions between RTA and the PAN promoter, an extensive mutagenesis study on the pPAN RRE was carried out by using EMSAs and reporter assays. These analyses revealed base pairs critical for both Rdbd binding in vitro and RTA transactivation in vivo of the PAN promoter. The results from methylation interference, deletion analysis, and mutagenesis using EMSAs and reporter assays were closely correlated and support the hypothesis that RTA activates PAN RNA expression through direct binding to DNA.
PMCID: PMC136175  PMID: 11967316
10.  Transcriptional Activation of TINF2, a Gene Encoding the Telomere-Associated Protein TIN2, by Sp1 and NF-κB Factors 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21333.
The expression of the telomere-associated protein TIN2 has been shown to be essential for early embryonic development in mice and for development of a variety of human malignancies. Recently, germ-line mutations in TINF2, which encodes for the TIN2 protein, have been identified in a number of patients with bone-marrow failure syndromes. Yet, the molecular mechanisms that regulate TINF2 expression are largely unknown. To elucidate the mechanisms involved in human TINF2 regulation, we cloned a 2.7 kb genomic DNA fragment containing the putative promoter region and, through deletion analysis, identified a 406 bp region that functions as a minimal promoter. This promoter proximal region is predicted to contain several putative Sp1 and NF-κB binding sites based on bioinformatic analysis. Direct binding of the Sp1 and NF-κB transcription factors to the TIN2 promoter sequence was demonstrated by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and/or chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays. Transfection of a plasmid carrying the Sp1 transcription factor into Sp-deficient SL2 cells strongly activated TIN2 promoter-driven luciferase reporter expression. Similarly, the NF-κB molecules p50 and p65 were found to strongly activate luciferase expression in NF-κB knockout MEFs. Mutating the predicted transcription factor binding sites effectively reduced TIN2 promoter activity. Various known chemical inhibitors of Sp1 and NF-κB could also strongly inhibit TIN2 transcriptional activity. Collectively, our results demonstrate the important roles that Sp1 and NF-κB play in regulating the expression of the human telomere-binding protein TIN2, which can shed important light on its possible role in causing various forms of human diseases and cancers.
PMCID: PMC3121743  PMID: 21731707
11.  Analysis of promoters and CREB/AP-1 binding sites of the human TMEM174 gene 
Transmembrane protein 174 (TMEM174) is a type III transmembrane protein with no clear signal peptide. The N and C terminals are located inside the cell. Our previous study demonstrated high expression of TMEM174 in the kidney and its potential involvement in renal cancer based on its capacity to stimulate cell proliferation. However, the mechanism by which TMEM174 promotes proliferation at the transcriptional level remains to be elucidated. In the present study, the TMEM174 promoter region was amplified from whole blood DNA. Six different regions of the regulatory sequences of the TMEM174 promoter region including ~2.5 kb of the upstream region were cloned into the dual luciferase expression vector pGL3-basic. Comparison of the activity of these fragments in dual luciferase reporter assays revealed higher levels of activity for the fragments spanning −186 to +674, −700 to +674, −1,000 to +674 and −2,500 to +1 bp. Lower levels of activity were detected for the fragments spanning −466 to +674 and −890 to +674 bp. The highest activity was detected for the fragment spanning −186 to +674 bp. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) was performed to determine effective transcription factor binding sites. Specific binding of the cyclic-AMP response element binding (CREB) within the TMEM174 gene promoter region was demonstrated, although binding of the activator protein-1 (AP-1) was also detected in this region. In conclusion, these results suggest that the core promoter region of the human TMEM174 gene is located within the region spanning −186 to +674 bp and that the transcription factors CREB and AP-1 are involved in the transcriptional regulation of this gene.
PMCID: PMC3820833  PMID: 24223660
activator protein-1; core promoter; cyclic-AMP response element binding protein; transmembrane protein 174 gene; transcriptional regulation; luciferase
12.  Promoter hypermethylation-induced transcriptional down-regulation of the gene MYCT1 in laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:219.
MYCT1, previously named MTLC, is a novel candidate tumor suppressor gene. MYCT1 was cloned from laryngeal squamous cell cancer (LSCC) and has been found to be down-regulated in LSCC; however, the regulatory details have not been fully elucidated.
Here, we sought to investigate the methylation status of the CpG islands of MYCT1 and mRNA levels by bisulfite-specific PCR (BSP) based on sequencing restriction enzyme digestion, reverse transcription and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RQ-PCR). The function of specific sites in the proximal promoter of MYCT1 in LSCC was measured by transient transfection, luciferase assays, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation assay (ChIP).
The results suggested hypermethylation of 12 CpG sites of the promoter in both laryngeal cancer tissues and the laryngeal cancer line Hep-2 cell. The hypermethylation of the site CGCG (−695 to −692), which has been identified as the c-Myc binding site, was identified in laryngeal cancer tissues (59/73) compared to paired mucosa (13/73); in addition, statistical analysis revealed that the methylation status of this site significantly correlated with cancer cell differentiation(p < 0.01). The mRNA level of MYCT1 increased in Hep-2 cells treated with 5-aza-C (p < 0.01). The luciferase activity from mutant transfectants pGL3-MYCT1m (−852/+12, mut-695-C > A, mut-693-C > G) was significantly reduced compared with the wild type pGL3-MYCT1 (−852/+12), while the luciferase activity from wild transfectants pGL3-MYCT1 (−852/+12) rose after 5-aza treatment in Hep-2 cells. Finally, EMSA and ChIP confirmed that the methylation of the CGCG (−695 to −692) site prevented c-Myc from binding of the site and demethylation treatment of the 5′ flanking region of MYCT1 by 5-aza induced the increased occupation of the core promoter by c-Myc (p < 0.01).
In summary, this study concluded that hypermethylation contributed to the transcriptional down-regulation of MYCT1 and could inhibit cancer cell differentiation in LSCC. DNA methylation of the CGCG site (−695 to −692) of MYCT1 altered the promoter activity by interfering with its binding to c-Myc in LSCC. Epigenetic therapy of reactivating MYCT1 by 5-aza should be further evaluated in clinical trails of LSCC.
PMCID: PMC3472177  PMID: 22672838
Hypermethylation; MYCT1; Laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma
13.  Comprehensive Annotation of Bidirectional Promoters Identifies Co-Regulation among Breast and Ovarian Cancer Genes 
PLoS Computational Biology  2007;3(4):e72.
A “bidirectional gene pair” comprises two adjacent genes whose transcription start sites are neighboring and directed away from each other. The intervening regulatory region is called a “bidirectional promoter.” These promoters are often associated with genes that function in DNA repair, with the potential to participate in the development of cancer. No connection between these gene pairs and cancer has been previously investigated. Using the database of spliced-expressed sequence tags (ESTs), we identified the most complete collection of human transcripts under the control of bidirectional promoters. A rigorous screen of the spliced EST data identified new bidirectional promoters, many of which functioned as alternative promoters or regulated novel transcripts. Additionally, we show a highly significant enrichment of bidirectional promoters in genes implicated in somatic cancer, including a substantial number of genes implicated in breast and ovarian cancers. The repeated use of this promoter structure in the human genome suggests it could regulate co-expression patterns among groups of genes. Using microarray expression data from 79 human tissues, we verify regulatory networks among genes controlled by bidirectional promoters. Subsets of these promoters contain similar combinations of transcription factor binding sites, including evolutionarily conserved ETS factor binding sites in ERBB2, FANCD2, and BRCA2. Interpreting the regulation of genes involved in co-expression networks, especially those involved in cancer, will be an important step toward defining molecular events that may contribute to disease.
Author Summary
Promoters are regulatory regions that control transcription of genes. A special class of promoters, known as bidirectional promoters, regulates expression of two genes instead of one. These promoters are situated between two adjacent genes whose transcription start sites are physically within 1,000 bp and oriented in opposite directions. Bidirectional promoters are found repeatedly in the genome, suggesting an important biological significance for this regulatory configuration. We developed an algorithm to map bidirectional promoters using data from a comprehensive list of transcribed sequences known as expressed sequence tags, or ESTs. This approach improved the number of previously characterized bidirectional promoters by 300%. Included in the new data are bidirectional promoters that regulate expression of genes implicated in somatic cancers. For instance, ten well-recognized genes implicated in breast and ovarian cancers were identified as having bidirectional promoters. Three of the genes are further related by having duplicate copies of the same binding site for a transcription factor within their bidirectional promoters. These binding sites are conserved among species, providing greater evidence that they are functionally important. This example, in which similar regulatory structures are used to control genes involved in cancer, illustrates how data can be mined from the comprehensive set of bidirectional promoters. Within this manuscript, we show statistical evidence that many cancer genes are regulated by bidirectional promoters. These promoters will be a valuable dataset for studying the role of gene regulation in tumor development.
PMCID: PMC1853124  PMID: 17447839
14.  Analysis of folylpoly-γ-glutamate synthetase gene expression in human B-precursor ALL and T-lineage ALL cells 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:132.
Expression of folylpoly-γ-glutamate synthetase (FPGS) gene is two- to three-fold higher in B-precursor ALL (Bp- ALL) than in T-lineage ALL (T-ALL) and correlates with intracellular accumulation of methotrexate (MTX) polyglutamates and lymphoblast sensitivity to MTX. In this report, we investigated the molecular regulatory mechanisms directing FPGS gene expression in Bp-ALL and T-ALL cells.
To determine FPGS transcription rate in Bp-ALL and T-ALL we used nuclear run-on assays. 5'-RACE was used to uncover potential regulatory regions involved in the lineage differences. We developed a luciferase reporter gene assay to investigate FPGS promoter/enhancer activity. To further characterize the FPGS proximal promoter, we determined the role of the putative transcription binding sites NFY and E-box on FPGS expression using luciferase reporter gene assays with substitution mutants and EMSA.
FPGS transcription initiation rate was 1.6-fold higher in NALM6 vs. CCRF-CEM cells indicating that differences in transcription rate led to the observed lineage differences in FPGS expression between Bp-ALL and T-ALL blasts. Two major transcripts encoding the mitochondrial/cytosolic and cytosolic isoforms were detected in Bp-ALL (NALM6 and REH) whereas in T-ALL (CCRF-CEM) cells only the mitochondrial/cytosolic transcript was detected. In all DNA fragments examined for promoter/enhancer activity, we measured significantly lower luciferase activity in NALM6 vs. CCRF-CEM cells, suggesting the need for additional yet unidentified regulatory elements in Bp-ALL. Finally, we determined that the putative transcription factor binding site NFY, but not E-box, plays a role in FPGS transcription in both Bp- and T-lineage.
We demonstrated that the minimal FPGS promoter region previously described in CCRF-CEM is not sufficient to effectively drive FPGS transcription in NALM6 cells, suggesting that different regulatory elements are required for FPGS gene expression in Bp-cells. Our data indicate that the control of FPGS expression in human hematopoietic cells is complex and involves lineage-specific differences in regulatory elements, transcription initiation rates, and mRNA processing. Understanding the lineage-specific mechanisms of FPGS expression should lead to improved therapeutic strategies aimed at overcoming MTX resistance or inducing apoptosis in leukemic cells.
PMCID: PMC1513244  PMID: 16707018
15.  A distal region of the human TGM1 promoter is required for expression in transgenic mice and cultured keratinocytes 
BMC Dermatology  2004;4:2.
TGM1(transglutaminase 1) is an enzyme that crosslinks the cornified envelope of mature keratinocytes. Appropriate expression of the TGM1 gene is crucial for proper keratinocyte function as inactivating mutations lead to the debilitating skin disease, lamellar ichthyosis. TGM1 is also expressed in squamous metaplasia, a consequence in some epithelia of vitamin A deficiency or toxic insult that can lead to neoplasia. An understanding of the regulation of this gene in normal and abnormal differentiation states may contribute to better disease diagnosis and treatment.
In vivo requirements for expression of the TGM1 gene were studied by fusing various lengths of promoter DNA to a reporter and injecting the DNA into mouse embryos to generate transgenic animals. Expression of the reporter was ascertained by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Further delineation of a transcriptionally important distal region was determined by transfections of progressively shortened or mutated promoter DNA into cultured keratinocytes.
In vivo analysis of a reporter transgene driven by the TGM1 promoter revealed that 1.6 kilobases, but not 1.1 kilobases, of DNA was sufficient to confer tissue-specific and cell layer-specific expression. This same region was responsible for reporter expression in tissues undergoing squamous metaplasia as a response to vitamin A deprivation. Mutation of a distal promoter AP1 site or proximal promoter CRE site, both identified as important transcriptional elements in transfection assays, did not prevent appropriate expression. Further searching for transcriptional elements using electrophoretic mobility shift (EMSA) and transfection assays in cultured keratinocytes identified two Sp1 elements in a transcriptionally active region between -1.6 and -1.4 kilobases. While mutation of either Sp1 site or the AP1 site singly had only a small effect, mutation of all three sites eliminated nearly all the transcriptional activity.
A distal region of the TGM1 gene promoter, containing AP1 and Sp1 binding sites, is evolutionarily conserved and responsible for high level expression in transgenic mice and in transfected keratinocyte cultures.
PMCID: PMC416661  PMID: 15061870
16.  Pax6 Regulates the Expression of Dkk3 in Murine and Human Cell Lines, and Altered Responses to Wnt Signaling Are Shown in FlpIn-3T3 Cells Stably Expressing Either the Pax6 or the Pax6(5a) Isoform 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102559.
Pax6 is a transcription factor important for early embryo development. It is expressed in several cancer cell lines and tumors. In glioblastoma, PAX6 has been shown to function as a tumor suppressor. Dickkopf 3 (Dkk3) is well established as a tumor suppressor in several tumor types, but not much is known about the regulation of its expression. We have previously found that Pax6 and Pax6(5a) increase the expression of the Dkk3 gene in two stably transfected mouse fibroblast cell lines. In this study the molecular mechanism behind this regulation is looked at. Western blot and reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) confirmed higher level of Dkk3 expression in both Pax6 and Pax6(5a) expressing cell lines compared to the control cell line. By the use of bioinformatics and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) we have mapped a functional Pax6 binding site in the mouse Dkk3 promoter. The minimal Dkk3 promoter fragment required for transcriptional activation by Pax6 and Pax6(5a) was a 200 bp region just upstream of the transcriptional start site. Mutation of the evolutionary conserved binding site in this region abrogated transcriptional activation and binding of Pax6/Pax6(5a) to the mouse Dkk3 promoter. Since the identified Pax6 binding site in this promoter is conserved, RT-qPCR and Western blot were used to look for regulation of Dkk3/REIC expression in human cell lines. Six of eight cell lines tested showed changes in Dkk3/REIC expression after PAX6 siRNA knockdown. Interestingly, we observed that the Pax6/Pax6(5a) expressing mouse fibroblast cell lines were less responsive to canonical Wnt pathway stimulation than the control cell line when TOP/FOP activity and the levels of active β-catenin and GSK3-β Ser9 phosphorylation were measured after LiCl stimulation.
PMCID: PMC4100929  PMID: 25029272
17.  Transcriptional regulation of the Alström syndrome gene ALMS1 by members of the RFX family and Sp1 
Gene  2010;460(1-2):20-29.
Mutations in the human gene ALMS1 cause Alström syndrome, a disorder characterised by neurosensory degeneration, metabolic defects and cardiomyopathy. ALMS1 encodes a centrosomal protein implicated in the assembly and maintenance of primary cilia. Expression of ALMS1 varies between tissues and recent data suggest that its transcription is modulated during adipogenesis and growth arrest. However the ALMS1 promoter has not been defined. This study focused on identifying and characterising the ALMS1 proximal promoter, initially by using 5' RACE to map transcription start sites. Luciferase reporter assay and EMSA data strongly suggest that ALMS1 transcription is regulated by the ubiquitous factor Sp1. In addition, reporter assay, EMSA, chromatin immunoprecipitation and RNA interference data indicate that ALMS1 transcription is regulated by regulatory factor X (RFX) proteins. These transcription factors are cell-type restricted in their expression profile and known to regulate genes of the ciliogenic pathway. We show binding of RFX proteins to an evolutionarily conserved X-box in the ALMS1 proximal promoter and present evidence that these proteins are responsible for ALMS1 transcription during growth arrest induced by low serum conditions. In summary, this work provides the first data on transcription factors regulating general and context-specific transcription of the disease-associated gene ALMS1.
PMCID: PMC2913254  PMID: 20381594
CAGE, cap-analysis of gene expression; cDNA, DNA complementary to RNA; ChIP, chromatin immunoprecipitation; EMSA, electrophoretic mobility shift assay; FCS, fetal calf serum; LMC, low-mobility complex; NE, nuclear extract; PCR, polymerase chain reaction; RACE, rapid amplification of cDNA ends; RFX, regulatory factor X; RNAi, RNA interference; RT-PCR, reverse transcription-PCR; s.d., standard deviation; SDS-PAGE, sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis; s.e.m., standard error of the mean; siRNA, small interfering RNA; TBP, TATA-binding protein; TSS, transcription start site; transcription; promoter; X-box; GC-box; cilia
18.  Multiple Interferon Regulatory Factor and NF-κB Sites Cooperate in Mediating Cell-Type- and Maturation-Specific Activation of the Human CD83 Promoter in Dendritic Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(7):1331-1344.
CD83 is one of the best-known surface markers for fully mature dendritic cells (mature DCs), and its cell-type- and maturation-specific regulation makes the CD83 promoter an interesting tool for the genetic modulation of DCs. To determine the mechanisms regulating this DC- and maturation-specific CD83 expression, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip microarray, biocomputational, reporter, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), and ChIP analyses were performed. These studies led to the identification of a ternary transcriptional activation complex composed of an upstream regulatory element, a minimal promoter, and an enhancer, which have not been reported in this arrangement for any other gene so far. Notably, these DNA regions contain a complex framework of interferon regulatory factor (IRF)- and NF-κB transcription factor-binding sites mediating their arrangement. Mutation of any of the IRF-binding sites resulted in a significant loss of promoter activity, whereas overexpression of NF-κB transcription factors clearly enhanced transcription. We identified IRF-1, IRF-2, IRF-5, p50, p65, and cRel to be involved in regulating maturation-specific CD83 expression in DCs. Therefore, the characterization of this promoter complex not only contributes to the knowledge of DC-specific gene regulation but also suggests the involvement of a transcriptional module with binding sites separated into distinct regions in transcriptional activation as well as cell-type- and maturation-specific transcriptional targeting of DCs.
PMCID: PMC3624272  PMID: 23339870
19.  Suppression of survivin promoter activity by YM155 involves disruption of Sp1-DNA interaction in the survivin core promoter 
YM155, a novel survivin suppressant, shows potent antitumor activity against various human cancers and is currently in phase II clinical trials. In this study, we investigated whether YM155 selectively inhibits survivin transcription. We hypothesize that inhibition of survivin transcription plays a role in YM155-mediated survivin inhibition. We found that YM155 inhibited survivin promoter activity, while it showed minimal inhibitory effect on four control gene promoters in transfection and luciferase activity assay experiments, indicating its selectivity. Transfection of various survivin promoter-luciferase constructs followed by luciferase assays revealed that the survivin core promoter (269 bp) plays a major role in YM155-mediated inhibitory effects. However, flow cytometry analysis indicated that inhibition of survivin promoter activity by YM155 is cell cycle-independent without G1 cell arrests. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) identified that YM155 abrogates nuclear proteins binding to the region of -149 to -71, in which Sp1 is a major candidate, and that YM155 treatment induces Sp1 re-subcellular localization without inhibiting its expression. Forced expression of Sp1 neutralized YM155-mediated downregulation of survivin promoter activity. Consistently, mutation of the identified Sp1 sites in the oligonucleotide probe diminished DNA-protein interactions in EMSA experiments, and mutation of the Sp1 sites in the survivin promoter-luciferase construct diminished survivin promoter activity. These findings indicate that YM155 inhibition of survivin expression is at least in part through its inhibition of survivin transcription by disruption of Sp1 interaction with the region of -149 to -71 in the survivin core promoter.
PMCID: PMC3388737  PMID: 22773958
YM155; the survivin promoter; cancer cells
20.  Tyrosine Hydroxylase Gene Regulation in Human Neuronal Progenitor Cells Does not Depend on Nurr1 as in the Murine and Rat Systems 
Journal of cellular physiology  2006;207(1):49-57.
A previous study on the human tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) promoter revealed remarkable differences in the mechanism of TH gene regulation between the human and murine models. Indeed, a low degree of homology was observed in the sequence of TH promoters among human, mouse, and rat systems. Only five short conserved regions (CRs) could be identified among the three species. A human TH minimal promoter was engineered and assembled into a self-inactivating lentiviral vector system. This human TH minimal promoter contained the five CRs plus the first -194 bp from the transcription start of the human TH promoter and the first 35 bp of the untranslated messenger RNA leader of the human TH gene. A significant degree of specificity for this human TH minimal promoter was observed only for human neuronal progenitor cells (hNPCs), but not for TH-positive differentiated mouse primary striatal and substantia nigra cells, indicating a significant difference in TH gene regulation between the human and mouse systems. Not only is the degree of homology between the human and mouse promoters in the range of only 46%, but also those few elements that share a high degree of homology display totally different functions in human and mouse brain-derived cells. In the rodent system, NR4A2 (Nurr1) is required for the transactivation of TH minimal promoters. Intriguingly, neither the dimeric nor the heterodimeric binding sites for Nurr1 are present in the 13 kb DNA sequence that contains the human TH promoter. Instead, the CRs termed one and four of the human TH promoter encode only for a half palindromic binding site sequence for Nurr1, which failed to bind Nurr1 in an in vitro electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). Additionally, of the three monomeric NGFI-B response element (NBRE) core sites (AGGTCA) and two NBRE-related sites present in the human TH promoter, only one core and two NBRE-related sites formed protein binding complexes. Interestingly, there was no increase of protein binding complex formation upon TH induction and in no case could antibodies supershift Nurr1 from the complex. These findings, taken together, demonstrate that NBRE-related binding sites for Nurr1 do not play a direct role in mediating an interaction between Nurr1 and the human TH promoter. Likewise, immunohistochemical and Western blot analysis have also confirmed that both endogenous and exogenous Nurr1 expression does not positively correlate with TH gene expression in hNPCs, in contrast to the mouse model. In addition, real-time PCR analysis revealed that the downregulation of human Nurr1 gene expression mediated by silencing RNA molecules did not affect human TH gene expression in differentiated hNPCs. A better understanding of human TH gene regulation may have important implications both for the development of novel therapeutic approaches and the study of the pathogenesis of a variety of neurological illnesses, including Parkinson's disease, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC1949423  PMID: 16252282
21.  Functional impact of a single nucleotide polymorphism in the OPRD1 promoter region 
Journal of human genetics  2010;55(5):278-284.
The δ-opioid receptor mediates rewarding effects of many substances of abuse. We reported an increased frequency of the minor G-allele of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs569356 [the only variant identified so far in the promoter region of the δ-opioid receptor gene (OPRD1)] in subjects with opioid dependence. In this study, we examined the functional significance of this variant. OPRD1 promoter region harboring SNP rs569356 was amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and inserted into a firefly luciferase reporter vector. HEK293 cells were co-transfected with these constructs and a renilla luciferase vector to control for transfection efficiency. Expression of firefly luciferase (driven by the OPRD1 promoter) was measured by a dual luciferase reporter assay and normalized by renilla luciferase expression. Moreover, alleles altering expression were further assessed for binding of human brain nuclear proteins by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). The minor G-allele was associated with significantly greater expression levels of firefly luciferase than the major A-allele of SNP rs569356 (P=0.003). EMSA also showed specific gel shift bands, suggesting that SNP rs569356 is situated in the binding site of potential transcription factors. These results suggest that the minor G-allele of SNP rs569356 may enhance transcription factor binding and increase OPRD1 expression.
PMCID: PMC2876206  PMID: 20300121
dual luciferase reporter gene assa; electrophoretic mobility shift assa; δ-opioid receptor gene; polymerase chain reaction; promoter polymorphism
22.  Sp1/Sp3 and DNA-methylation contribute to basal transcriptional activation of human podoplanin in MG63 versus Saos-2 osteoblastic cells 
Podoplanin is a membrane mucin that, among a series of tissues, is expressed on late osteoblasts and osteocytes. Since recent findings have focussed on podoplanin's potential role as a tumour progression factor, we aimed at identifying regulatory elements conferring PDPN promoter activity. Here, we characterized the molecular mechanism controlling basal PDPN transcription in human osteoblast-like MG63 versus Saos-2 cells.
We cloned and sequenced 2056 nucleotides from the 5'-flanking region of the PDPN gene and a computational search revealed that the TATA and CAAT box-lacking promoter possesses features of a growth-related gene, such as a GC-rich 5' region and the presence of multiple putative Sp1, AP-4 and NF-1 sites. Reporter gene assays demonstrated a functional promoter in MG63 cells exhibiting 30-fold more activity than in Saos-2 cells. In vitro DNase I footprinting revealed eight protected regions flanked by DNaseI hypersensitive sites within the region bp -728 to -39 present in MG63, but not in Saos-2 cells. Among these regions, mutation and supershift electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) identified four Sp1/Sp3 binding sites and two binding sites for yet unknown transcription factors. Deletion studies demonstrated the functional importance of two Sp1/Sp3 sites for PDPN promoter activity. Overexpression of Sp1 and Sp3 independently increased the stimulatory effect of the promoter and podoplanin mRNA levels in MG63 and Saos-2 cells. In SL2 cells, Sp3 functioned as a repressor, while Sp1 and Sp3 acted positively synergistic. Weak PDPN promoter activity of Saos-2 cells correlated with low Sp1/Sp3 nuclear levels, which was confirmed by Sp1/Sp3 chromatin immunoprecipitations in vivo. Moreover, methylation-sensitive Southern blot analyses and bisulfite sequencing detected strong methylation of CpG sites upstream of bp -464 in MG63 cells, but hypomethylation of these sites in Saos-2 cells. Concomitantly, treatment with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-azaCdR in combination with trichostatin A (TSA) downregulated podoplanin mRNA levels in MG63 cells, and region-specific in vitro methylation of the distal promoter suggested that DNA methylation rather enhanced than hindered PDPN transcription in both cell types.
These data establish that in human osteoblast-like MG63 cells, Sp1 and Sp3 stimulate basal PDPN transcription in a concerted, yet independent manner, whereas Saos-2 cells lack sufficient nuclear Sp protein amounts for transcriptional activation. Moreover, a highly methylated chromatin conformation of the distal promoter region confers cell-type specific podoplanin upregulation versus Saos-2 cells.
PMCID: PMC1828165  PMID: 17343736
23.  Epigenetic regulation of CD133/PROM1 expression in glioma stem cells by Sp1/myc and promoter methylation 
Oncogene  2012;32(26):10.1038/onc.2012.331.
Tumor stem cells, postulated to be the source cells for malignancies, have been identified in several cancers using cell-surface expression of markers including CD133, a pentaspan membrane protein. CD133+ve cells form neurospheres, exhibit self-renewal and differentiation, and are tumorigenic. However, despite its association with stem cells, a causal relationship of CD133 to tumorigenesis remains to be defined. Hypothesizing that specific epigenetic and transcription factors implicated in driving the stem cell state may concurrently regulate CD133 expression in stem cells, we analyzed the structure and regulation of CD133 promoter in glioma stem cells and glioma cell lines. Initially, a minimal promoter region was identified by analyzing the activity of CD133 promoter-driven luciferase-expressing 5’-and 3’-deletion-constructs upstream of the transcription start site. This region contained a CpG island that was hypermethylated in CD133−ve glioma stem cells (GSC) and glioma cells but unmethylated in CD133+ve ones. Of several predicted TF-binding sites in this region, the role of tandem Sp1 (−242 and −221) and two Myc (−541 and −25)-binding sites were examined. Overexpression of Sp1 or Myc increased CD133 minimal promoter-driven luciferase activity and CD133 levels in GSC and in glioma cell line. Mithramycin, a Sp1 inhibitor, decreased minimal promoter activity and downregulated CD133 levels in GSC. Gel-shift assays demonstrated direct binding of Sp1 to their predicted sites that was competitively inhibited by oligonucleotide-binding-site sequences and supershifted by anti-Sp1 confirming the interaction. Sp1 and Myc-antibody chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis in GSC showed enrichment of regions with Sp1 and Myc-binding sites. In CD133−ve cells, ChIP analysis showed binding of the methyl-DNA-binding proteins, MBD1, MBD2 and MeCP2 to the methylated CpG island and repression of transcription. These results demonstrate that Sp1 and Myc regulate CD133 transcription in GSC and that promoter methylation and methyl-DNA-binding proteins cause repression of CD133 by excluding transcription-factor binding.
PMCID: PMC3820114  PMID: 22945648
CD133; glioma Stem Cell; Sp1; Myc; promoter methylation; epigenetic regulation
24.  NELL-1, an Osteoinductive Factor, Is a Direct Transcriptional Target of Osterix 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24638.
NELL-1 is a novel secreted protein associated with premature fusion of cranial sutures in craniosynostosis that has been found to promote osteoblast cell differentiation and mineralization. Our previous study showed that Runx2, the key transcription factor in osteoblast differentiation, transactivates the NELL-1 promoter. In this study, we evaluated the regulatory involvement and mechanisms of Osterix, an essential transcription factor of osteoblasts, in NELL-1 gene expression and function. Promoter analysis showed a cluster of potential Sp1 sites (Sp1/Osterix binding sites) within approximately 70 bp (from −71 to −142) of the 5′ flanking region of the human NELL-1 transcriptional start site. Luciferase activity in our NELL-1 promoter reporter systems was significantly decreased in Saos-2 cells when Osterix was overexpressed. Mutagenesis study demonstrated that this suppression is mediated by the Sp1 sites. The binding specificity of Osterix to these Sp1 sites was confirmed in Saos-2 cells and primary human osteoblasts by EMSA in vitro and ChIP assay in vivo. ChIP assay also showed that Osterix downregulated NELL-1 by affecting binding of RNA polymerase II to the NELL-1 promoter, but not by competing with Runx2 binding to the OSE2 sites. Moreover, NELL-1 mRNA levels were significantly decreased when Osterix was overexpressed in Saos-2, U2OS, Hela and Glioma cells. Correspondingly, knockdown of Osterix increased NELL-1 transcription and osteoblastic differentiation in both Saos-2 cells and primary human osteoblasts. These results suggest that Osterix is a direct transcriptional regulator with repressive effect on NELL-1 gene expression, contributing to a delicate balance of regulatory effects on NELL-1 transcription with Runx2, and may play a crucial role in osteoblast differentiation and mineralization. These findings also extend our understanding of the molecular mechanism of Runx2, Osterix, and NELL-1 and demonstrate their crosstalk during osteogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3172249  PMID: 21931789
25.  A synthetic library of RNA control modules for predictable tuning of gene expression in yeast 
The authors describe a library of synthetic RNA control elements that provide programmable post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in yeast. This toolkit is then used to study endogenous regulation of the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway.
Rnt1p hairpins can act as effective posttranscriptional gene regulatory elements in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.Modification of the cleavage efficiency box (CEB) region of an Rnt1p hairpin can modulate Rnt1p cleavage rates, and thus the resulting gene regulatory activities of the hairpin control elements.A library of Rnt1p hairpins can act as a set of synthetic control modules that provide predictable tuning of gene expression over a wide range of expression levels.The Rnt1p-based control elements can be combined with any promoter to support titration of regulatory strategies encoded in transcriptional regulators, including feedback control around endogenous proteins.
The design of complex biological systems encoding desired functions require the development of genetic tools for the precise control of protein levels in cells (Elowitz and Leibler, 2000; Gardner et al, 2000; Basu et al, 2004). For example, in the design of engineered metabolic networks, the tuning of enzyme levels is often critical for overcoming metabolic burden (Jones et al, 2000; Jin et al, 2003), the accumulation of toxic intermediates (Zhu et al, 2001; Pfleger et al, 2006) and detrimental consequences associated with the redirection of cellular resources from native pathways (Alper et al, 2005b; Paradise et al, 2008). Various examples of libraries of genetic control modules have been described that have been generated through the randomization of well-characterized gene expression control elements (Basu et al, 2004; Pfleger et al, 2006; Anderson et al, 2007). However, most of these studies have been conducted in Escherichia coli such that there is a lack of similar tools for other cellular chassis.
The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a relevant organism in industrial processes, including biosynthesis and biomanufacturing strategies (Ostergaard et al, 2000; Szczebara et al, 2003; Nguyen et al, 2004; Veen and Lang, 2004; Ro et al, 2006; Hawkins and Smolke, 2008). The majority of existing methods for tuning gene expression in yeast are through transcriptional control mechanisms in the form of inducible and constitutive promoter systems (Hawkins and Smolke, 2006; Nevoigt et al, 2006; Nevoigt et al, 2007). RNA-based control modules based on posttranscriptional mechanisms may offer an advantage in that they can be coupled to any promoter of choice, providing for enhanced control strategies and finer resolution tuning of protein expression levels. Although posttranscriptional control elements, such as internal ribosome entry sites and AU-rich elements, have been applied to regulate heterologous gene expression in yeast (Vasudevan and Peltz, 2001; Zhou et al, 2001; Lautz et al, 2010), these control elements have exhibited substantial variability in activity and have not been engineered as synthetic libraries exhibiting a wide range of predictable gene regulatory activities.
RNase III enzymes are a class of enzymes that cleave double-stranded RNA. The S. cerevisiae RNase III enzyme, Rnt1p, exhibits a number of unique features that allow it to recognize very specific RNA hairpin substrates that harbor a consensus AGNN tetraloop sequence. Despite extensive characterization of this enzyme and its demonstrated role in processing non-coding RNA and mRNA, neither natural nor synthetic Rnt1p substrates have been used to control gene expression levels in yeast. Therefore, we developed a genetic control system based on directed Rnt1p processing of a target transcript. Specifically, Rnt1p hairpins were immediately flanked by a clamp sequence (that insulates the hairpin structure from surrounding sequences) and placed downstream of a gene of interest, where they direct cleavage and thus inactivate the transcript, resulting in rapid transcript degradation. We validated this Rnt1p-based control system with two Rnt1p hairpins based on previous in vitro studies and demonstrated that Rnt1p hairpins can act as gene control modules in yeast.
Previous in vitro studies had identified three key regions in Rnt1p hairpins: the cleavage efficiency box (CEB), the binding stability box and the initial binding and positioning box (Lamontagne et al, 2003). The CEB region affects the processing of the hairpin stem by Rnt1p, such that nucleotide (nt) modifications in this region are expected to specifically modulate the cleavage rate. We created an Rnt1p hairpin library by randomizing the CEB region (12 nt). This library was placed downstream of a fluorescent reporter protein and a cell-based screening assay was used to identify functional members of the library that resulted in lowered fluorescence levels. The functional Rnt1p hairpin library comprises 16 unique sequences that span a large gene regulatory range—from 8 to 85% (Figure 3A)—and are fairly evenly distributed across this range. The negative controls for each sequence (constructed by mutating the required consensus tetraloop sequence) demonstrated that the majority of gene knockdown observed from each hairpin is due to Rnt1p processing (Figure 3B). A correlation analysis on the transcript and protein levels for each library hairpin construct indicated a strong positive correlation and a strong preservation of rank order between the two in vivo regulatory measurements (Figure 3C). Characterization of the hairpin library in a different genetic context supported the broader utility of these control modules for providing predictable gene control.
We applied the Rnt1p control modules to titrating a key enzyme component of the endogenous ergosterol biosynthesis network—the ERG9 genetic target. Squalene synthase, encoded by the ERG9 gene, is responsible for catalyzing the conversion of two molecules of farnesyl pyrophosphate to squalene, the first precursor in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway in S. cerevisiae (Poulter and Rilling, 1981; Figure 6A). We integrated several members of the Rnt1p hairpin library downstream of the native ERG9 gene to cover the regulatory range of the library (Figure 6B). A strong positive correlation and preservation of rank order was observed between the ERG9 transcript levels and their yEGFP3 counterparts (Figure 6C). However, ERG9 expression levels did not fall below ∼40%, regardless of the Rnt1p hairpin strength, indicating that a previously identified endogenous feedback mechanism associated with the native ERG9 promoter acts to maintain ERG9 expression levels at that threshold value. In addition, most strains exhibited high relative ergosterol levels and growth rates, except for two strains harboring synthetic Rnt1p hairpins that resulted in the lowest expression levels, which exhibited a significant reduction in the amount of ergosterol produced and growth rate (Figure 6D and E). Our studies indicate that the endogenous feedback mechanism can be acting to increase ERG9 expression levels to the desired set point in the slow-growing strains, but the perturbations introduced in these strains may result in other impacts on the pathway that inhibit the endogenous control systems from restoring cellular growth to wild-type rates. These studies support the unique ability of the synthetic Rnt1p hairpin library to systematically titrate pathway enzyme levels by introducing precise perturbations around major control points while maintaining native cellular control strategies acting through transcriptional mechanisms.
Advances in synthetic biology have resulted in the development of genetic tools that support the design of complex biological systems encoding desired functions. The majority of efforts have focused on the development of regulatory tools in bacteria, whereas fewer tools exist for the tuning of expression levels in eukaryotic organisms. Here, we describe a novel class of RNA-based control modules that provide predictable tuning of expression levels in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A library of synthetic control modules that act through posttranscriptional RNase cleavage mechanisms was generated through an in vivo screen, in which structural engineering methods were applied to enhance the insulation and modularity of the resulting components. This new class of control elements can be combined with any promoter to support titration of regulatory strategies encoded in transcriptional regulators and thus more sophisticated control schemes. We applied these synthetic controllers to the systematic titration of flux through the ergosterol biosynthesis pathway, providing insight into endogenous control strategies and highlighting the utility of this control module library for manipulating and probing biological systems.
PMCID: PMC3094065  PMID: 21364573
gene expression control; metabolic flux control; RNA controller; Rnt1p hairpin; synthetic biology

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