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J Biol Chem. 1994 Jan 7;269(1):579-87.

Structural and functional characterization of the human decorin gene promoter. A homopurine-homopyrimidine S1 nuclease-sensitive region is involved in transcriptional control.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.


Decorin is a leucine-rich, chondroitin/dermatan sulfate proteoglycan which binds collagen and growth factors. We have recently completed the genomic organization of human decorin and discovered two alternatively spliced leader exons, designated exon Ia and Ib, in the 5'-untranslated region. Initial analysis of the sequences upstream to these two exons showed that promoter Ia contained only two GC boxes while promoter Ib contained a CAAT and two TATA boxes in close proximity to the transcription start site. To determine if these 5'-flanking sequences exhibited promoter activity, chimeric chloramphenicol acetyltransferase expression plasmids containing the promoter region of either exon Ia or Ib were transfected into HeLa and MG-63 osteosarcoma cells. The results showed that only the region flanking exon Ib was functional. In vitro transcription assay generated two transcripts of 92 and 82 base pairs (bp) indicating that both TATA boxes could be used. Using stepwise 5' deletion analysis we found that the minimum promoter region at -140 bp from the transcription start site, which contained only the CAAT and the two TATA boxes, exhibited strong promoter activity. When a larger construct containing an additional 800 bp of upstream region was tested, a significant increase in transcriptional activity was observed. Interestingly, this promoter region contained several putative binding sites for ubiquitous factors (AP1, AP5, and NF-kappa B) and for transforming growth factor-beta and a 150-bp homopurine/homopyrimidine element with several mirror repeats. When contained in a supercoiled plasmid, this sequence exhibited sensitivity to endonuclease S1, an enzyme that preferentially digests single-stranded DNA. Precise S1 mapping, obtained by direct sequencing of nine distinct S1-generated clones, revealed that in all cases the borders of the sensitive sequence resided within the pur/pyr segment. We propose that this region of the promoter could adopt an intramolecular hairpin triplex structure in vivo and may play a role in the chromatin organization at the decorin gene locus. In addition, this region was able to up-regulate a minimal heterologous promoter in transient transfection assays. The results show that the structure of the decorin gene promoter is different from that of any other proteoglycan promoter characterized so far and indicate that the pur/pyr segment plays a role in the regulation of gene transcription.

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