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Genes Dev. 1988 Dec;2(12B):1764-78.

Activation of the U2 snRNA promoter by the octamer motif defines a new class of RNA polymerase II enhancer elements.

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  • 1Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York 11724.

Erratum in

  • Genes Dev 1989 Apr;3(4):584.


The recent discovery that the activation domains of transcriptional activators (e.g., GAL4) from a number of species are interchangeable has led to the concept of a general mechanism for activation of RNA polymerase II genes. We have examined the different activities of the SV40 octamer motif ATGCAAAG in B cells and in HeLa cells in the context of either the beta-globin promoter, a TATA-box-containing mRNA promoter, or the U2 snRNA promoter, which contains a snRNA-specific proximal element. In the context of the beta-globin promoter, the octamer motif is a B-cell-specific enhancer element, whereas it is a ubiquitous enhancer element for the U2 snRNA promoter. The U2 promoter is unique in that it is not activated by enhancer elements that activate the beta-globin promoter, and a hybrid U2 promoter containing the upstream activating sequence UASG is not stimulated by a yeast GAL4 trans-activator. Together, these observations suggest that in the context of the U2 promoter, the octamer motif defines a new class of RNA polymerase II enhancer elements, which bind transcription factors that trans-activate gene expression by a different mechanism than the general mechanism mentioned above. These results are discussed in light of the possibility that the ubiquitous octamer binding protein Oct-1 and the B-cell-specific octamer binding protein Oct-2 are involved in the activation of the U2 and beta-globin promoters, respectively.

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