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Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Mar;15(3):1364-76.

Decreased expression of hepatocyte nuclear factor 3 alpha during the acute-phase response influences transthyretin gene transcription.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago 60612-7334.


Three distinct hepatocyte nuclear factor 3 (HNF-3) proteins (alpha, beta, and gamma) are known to regulate the transcription of numerous liver-specific genes. The HNF-3 proteins bind to DNA as monomers through a winged-helix motif, which is also utilized by a number of developmental regulators, including the Drosophila homeotic fork head (fkh) protein. We have previously characterized a strong-affinity HNF-3S site in the transthyretin (TTR) promoter region which is essential for expression in human hepatoma (HepG2) cells. In the current study, we identify an activating protein 1 (AP-1) site which partially overlaps the HNF-3S sequence in the TTR promoter. We show that in HepG2 cells the AP-1 sequence confers 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate inducibility to the TTR promoter and contributes to normal TTR transcriptional activity. We also demonstrate that the HNF-3 proteins and AP-1 bind independently to the TTR AP-1-HNF-3 site, and cotransfection experiments suggest that they do not cooperate to activate an AP-1-HNF-3 reporter construct. In addition, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate exposure of HepG2 cells results in a reciprocal decrease in HNF-3 alpha and -3 gamma expression which may facilitate interaction of AP-1 with the TTR AP-1-HNF-3 site. In order to explore the role of HNF-3 in the liver, we have examined expression patterns of TTR and HNF-3 during the acute-phase response and liver regeneration. Partial hepatectomy produced minimal fluctuation in HNF-3 and TTR expression, suggesting that HNF-3 expression is not influenced by proliferative signals induced during liver regeneration. In acute-phase livers, we observed a dramatic reduction in HNF-3 alpha expression which correlates with a decrease in the expression of its target gene, the TTR gene. Furthermore, consistent with previous studies, the acute-phase livers are induced for c-jun but not c-fos expression. We propose that the reduction in TTR gene expression during the acute phase is likely due to lower HNF-3 alpha expression levels and that the induction of primarily c-jun homodimers, which are poor transcriptional activators, is insufficient to maintain normal TTR expression levels. We also discuss the role of reduced HNF-3 alpha expression in mediating decreased transcription of HNF-3 target genes which respond negatively to cytokine signalling.

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