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Mol Cell Biol. 2001 Feb;21(4):1239-48.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress-induced formation of transcription factor complex ERSF including NF-Y (CBF) and activating transcription factors 6alpha and 6beta that activates the mammalian unfolded protein response.

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  • 1Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8304, Japan.


The levels of molecular chaperones and folding enzymes in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) are controlled by a transcriptional induction process termed the unfolded protein response (UPR). The mammalian UPR is mediated by the cis-acting ER stress response element (ERSE), the consensus sequence of which is CCAAT-N(9)-CCACG. We recently proposed that ER stress response factor (ERSF) binding to ERSE is a heterologous protein complex consisting of the constitutive component NF-Y (CBF) binding to CCAAT and an inducible component binding to CCACG and identified the basic leucine zipper-type transcription factors ATF6alpha and ATF6beta as inducible components of ERSF. ATF6alpha and ATF6beta produced by ER stress-induced proteolysis bind to CCACG only when CCAAT is bound to NF-Y, a heterotrimer consisting of NF-YA, NF-YB, and NF-YC. Interestingly, the NF-Y and ATF6 binding sites must be separated by a spacer of 9 bp. We describe here the basis for this strict requirement by demonstrating that both ATF6alpha and ATF6beta physically interact with NF-Y trimer via direct binding to the NF-YC subunit. ATF6alpha and ATF6beta bind to the ERSE as a homo- or heterodimer. Furthermore, we showed that ERSF including NF-Y and ATF6alpha and/or beta and capable of binding to ERSE is indeed formed when the cellular UPR is activated. We concluded that ATF6 homo- or heterodimers recognize and bind directly to both the DNA and adjacent protein NF-Y and that this complex formation process is essential for transcriptional induction of ER chaperones.

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