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Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Oct;15(10):5830-45.

PU.1 (Spi-1) and C/EBP alpha regulate expression of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor receptor alpha gene.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Growth factor receptors play an important role in hematopoiesis. In order to further understand the mechanisms directing the expression of these key regulators of hematopoiesis, we initiated a study investigating the transcription factors activating the expression of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor alpha gene. Here, we demonstrate that the human GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter directs reporter gene activity in a tissue-specific fashion in myelomonocytic cells, which correlates with its expression pattern as analyzed by reverse transcription PCR. The GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter contains an important functional site between positions -53 and -41 as identified by deletion analysis of reporter constructs. We show that the myeloid and B cell transcription factor PU.1 binds specifically to this site. Furthermore, we demonstrate that a CCAAT site located upstream of the PU.1 site between positions -70 and -54 is involved in positive-negative regulation of the GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter activity. C/EBP alpha is the major CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) form binding to this site in nuclear extracts of U937 cells. Point mutations of either the PU.1 site or the C/EBP site that abolish the binding of the respective factors result in a significant decrease of GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter activity in myelomonocytic cells only. Furthermore, we demonstrate that in myeloid and B cell extracts, PU.1 forms a novel, specific, more slowly migrating complex (PU-SF) when binding the GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter PU.1 site. This is the first demonstration of a specific interaction with PU.1 on a myeloid PU.1 binding site. The novel complex is distinct from that described previously as binding to B cell enhancer sites and can be formed by addition of PU.1 to extracts from certain nonmyeloid cell types which do not express PU.1, including T cells and epithelial cells, but not from erythroid cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the PU-SF complex binds to PU.1 sites found on a number of myeloid promoters, and its formation requires an intact PU.1 site adjacent to a single-stranded region. Expression of PU.1 in nonmyeloid cells can activate the GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter. Deletion of the amino-terminal region of PU.1 results in a failure to form the PU-SF complex and in a concomitant loss of transactivation, suggesting that formation of the PU-SF complex is of functional importance for the activity of the GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter. Finally, we demonstrate that C/EBP alpha can also active the GM-CSF receptor alpha promoter in nonmyeloid cells. These results suggest that PU.1 and C/EBP alpha direct the cell-type-specific expression of GM-CSF receptor alpha, further establish the role of PU.1 as a key regulator of hematopoiesis, and point to C/EBP alpha as an additional important factor in this process.

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