The M-CAT binding factor transcription enhancer factor 1 (TEF-1) has been implicated in the regulation of several cardiac and skeletal muscle genes. Previously, we identified an E-box-M-CAT hybrid (EM) motif that is responsible for the basal and cyclic AMP-inducible expression of the rat cardiac alpha-myosin heavy chain (alpha-MHC) gene in cardiac myocytes. In this study, we report that two factors, TEF-1 and a basic helix-loop-helix leucine zipper protein, Max, bind to the alpha-MHC EM motif. We also found that Max was a part of the cardiac troponin T M-CAT-TEF-1 complex even when the DNA template did not contain an apparent E-box binding site. In the protein-protein interaction assay, a stable association of Max with TEF-1 was observed when glutathione S-transferase (GST)-TEF-1 or GST-Max was used to pull down in vitro-translated Max or TEF-1, respectively. In addition, Max was coimmunoprecipitated with TEF-1, thus documenting an in vivo TEF-1-Max interaction. In the transient transcription assay, overexpression of either Max or TEF-1 resulted a mild activation of the alpha-MHC-chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene at lower concentrations and repression of this gene at higher concentrations. However, when Max and TEF-1 expression plasmids were transfected together, the repression mediated by a single expression plasmid was alleviated and a three- to fourfold transactivation of the alpha-MHC-CAT reporter gene was observed. This effect was abolished once the EM motif in the promoter-reporter construct was mutated, thus suggesting that the synergistic transactivation function of the TEF-1-Max heterotypic complex is mediated through binding of the complex to the EM motif. These results demonstrate a novel association between Max and TEF-1 and indicate a positive cooperation between these two factors in alpha-MHC gene regulation.
Members of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family of transcription factors have been shown to regulate growth and differentiation of numerous cell types. Cell-type-specific bHLH proteins typically form heterodimers with ubiquitous bHLH proteins, such as E12, and bind a DNA consensus sequence known as an E-box. We used the yeast two-hybrid system to screen mouse embryo cDNA libraries for cDNAs encoding novel cell-type-specific bHLH proteins that dimerize with E12. One of the cDNAs isolated encoded a novel bHLH protein, called scleraxis. During mouse embryogenesis, scleraxis transcripts were first detected between day 9.5 and 10.5 post coitum (p.c.) in the sclerotome of the somites and in mesenchymal cells in the body wall and limb buds. Subsequently, scleraxis was expressed at high levels within mesenchymal precursors of the axial and appendicular skeleton and in cranial mesenchyme in advance of chondrogenesis; its expression pattern in these cell types foreshadowed the developing skeleton. Prior to formation of the embryonic cartilaginous skeleton, scleraxis expression declined to low levels. As development proceeded, high levels of scleraxis expression became restricted to regions where cartilage and connective tissue formation take place. Scleraxis bound the E-box consensus sequence as a heterodimer with E12 and activated transcription of a reporter gene linked to its DNA-binding site. The expression pattern, DNA-binding properties and transcriptional activity of scleraxis suggest that it is a regulator of gene expression within mesenchymal cell lineages that give rise to cartilage and connective tissue.
The observation that adenovirus E1A gene products can inhibit differentiation of skeletal myocytes suggested that E1A may interfere with the activity of myogenic basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors. We have examined the ability of E1A to mediate repression of the muscle-specific creatine kinase (MCK) gene. Both the E1A12S and E1A13S products repressed MCK transcription in a concentration-dependent fashion. In contrast, amino-terminal deletion mutants (d2-36 and d15-35) of E1A12S were defective for repression. E1A12S also repressed expression of a promoter containing a multimer of the MCK high-affinity E box (the consensus site for myogenic bHLH protein binding) that was dependent, in C3H10T1/2 cells, on coexpression of a myogenin bHLH-VP16 fusion protein. A series of coprecipitation experiments with glutathione S-transferase fusion and in vitro-translated proteins demonstrated that E1A12S, but not amino-terminal E1A deletion mutants, could bind to full-length myogenin and E12 and to deletion mutants of myogenin and E12 that spare the bHLH domains. Thus, the bHLH domains of myogenin and E12, and the high-affinity E box, are targets for E1A-mediated repression of the MCK enhancer, and domains of E1A required for repression of muscle-specific gene transcription also mediate binding to bHLH proteins. We conclude that E1A mediates repression of muscle-specific gene transcription through its amino-terminal domain and propose that this may involve a direct physical interaction between E1A and the bHLH region of myogenic determination proteins.
CD20 is a B-lineage–specific gene expressed at the pre–B-cell stage of B-cell development that disappears on differentiation to plasma cells. As such, it serves as an excellent paradigm for the study of lineage and developmental stage-specific gene expression. Using in vivo footprinting we identified two sites in the promoter at −45 and −160 that were occupied only in CD20+ B cells. The −45 site is an E box that binds basic helix-loop-helix-zipper proteins whereas the −160 site is a composite PU.1 and Pip binding site. Transfection studies with reporter constructs and various expression vectors verified the importance of these sites. The composite PU.1 and Pip site likely accounts for both lineage and stage-specific expression of CD20 whereas the CD20 E box binding proteins enhance overall promoter activity and may link the promoter to a distant enhancer.
The enhancer region of Akv murine leukemia virus contains the sequence motif ACAGATGG. This sequence is homologous to the E-box motif originally defined as a regulatory element in the enhancers of immunoglobulin mu and kappa genes. We have used double-stranded oligonucleotide probes, corresponding to the E box of the murine leukemia virus Akv, to screen a randomly primed lambda gt11 cDNA expression library made from mouse NIH 3T3 fibroblast RNA. We have identified seven lambda clones expressing DNA-binding proteins representing two different genes termed ALF1 and ALF2. The results of sequencing ALF2 cDNA suggests that we have recovered the gene for the basic-helix-loop-helix transcription factor A1, the murine analog of the human transcription factor E47. The cDNA sequence of ALF1 codes for a new member of the basic-helix-loop-helix protein family. Two splice variants of ALF1 cDNA have been found, differing by a 72-bp insertion, coding for putative proteins of 682 and 706 amino acids. The two ALF1 mRNAs are expressed at various levels in mouse tissues. In vitro DNA binding assays, using prokaryotically expressed ALF1 proteins, demonstrated specific binding of the ALF1 proteins to the Akv murine leukemia virus E-box motif ACAGATGG. Expression in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts of GAL4-ALF1 chimeric protein stimulated expression from a minimal promoter linked to a GAL4 binding site, indicating the existence of a transcriptional activator domain in ALF1.
The activity of the immunoglobulin heavy-chain (IgH) enhancer is restricted to B cells, although it binds both B-cell-restricted and ubiquitous transcription factors. Activation of the enhancer in non-B cells upon overexpression of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) protein E2A appears to be mediated not only by the binding of E2A to its cognate E box but also by the resulting displacement of a repressor from that same site. We have identified a "two-handed" zinc finger protein, denoted ZEB, the DNA-binding specificity of which mimics that of the cellular repressor. By employing a derivative E box that binds ZEB but not E2A, we have shown that the repressor is active in B cells and the IgH enhancer is silenced in the absence of binding competition by bHLH proteins. Hence, we propose that a necessary prerequisite of enhancer activity is the B-cell-specific displacement of a ZEB-like repressor by bHLH proteins.