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Oncogene. 1997 Feb 6;14(5):589-94.

The dual role of helix-loop--helix-zipper protein USF in ribosomal RNA gene transcription in vivo.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Biology, The Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, Illinois 60064, USA.


We have previously demonstrated that the core promoter of rat ribosomal RNA gene (rDNA) contains an E-box-like sequence to which the core promoter binding factor CPBF binds and that the 44 kDa subunit of this protein is immunologically related to USF1, the helix--loop--helix-zipper DNA binding protein. Further, we showed that RNA polymerase I (pol I) transcription in vitro is competed by oligonucleotides containing USF-binding site, which suggested a key role for USF in rDNA transcription. To prove the potential role of USF in pol I transcription in vivo, USF1 and USF2 homodimers and USF1/USF2 heterodimer were overexpressed in CHO cells by transfection of the respective cDNAs. Co-transfection of a plasmid containing rDNA followed by primer extension analysis showed that overexpression of USF1 and USF2 as homodimers resulted in inhibition of rDNA transcription by as much as 85-90% whereas overexpression of USF1/USF2 in the heterodimeric form activated transcription approximately 3.5-fold. Transfection of mutant USF2 cDNA that is devoid of the basic DNA-binding domain produced only minimal inhibition of rDNA transcription. These data show that USF can modulate transcription of rRNA gene in vivo by functioning as a repressor (homodimer) or activator (heterodimer) of pol I transcription in vivo and suggest that inhibition of rDNA transcription may be responsible for the antiproliferative action of USF homodimers.

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