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J Biol Chem. 1998 Nov 27;273(48):32312-21.

Repression of cyclooxygenase-2 and prostaglandin E2 release by dexamethasone occurs by transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms involving loss of polyadenylated mRNA.

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  • 1Department of Thoracic Medicine, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College School of Medicine, Dovehouse Street, London, SW3 6LY, United Kingdom.


The two cyclooxygenase (COX) isoforms convert arachidonic acid to precursor prostaglandins (PGs). Up-regulation of COX-2 is responsible for increased PG production in inflammation and is antagonized by corticosteriods such as dexamethasone. In human pulmonary A549 cells, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) increases prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) synthesis via dexamethasone-sensitive induction of COX-2. Nuclear run-off assays showed that COX-2 transcription rate was repressed 25-40% by dexamethasone, while PGE2 release, COX activity, and COX-2 protein were totally repressed. At the mRNA level, complete repression of COX-2 was only observed at later (6 h) time points. Preinduced COX-2 mRNA was also potently repressed by dexamethasone, yet suppression of transcription by actinomycin D showed little effect. This dexamethasone-dependent repression involved a reduced COX-2 mRNA half-life, was blocked by actinomycin D or cycloheximide, and was antagonized by the steroid antagonist RU38486. Repression of IL-1beta-induced PGE2 release, COX activity, and COX-2 protein by actinomycin D was only effective within the first hour following IL-1beta treatment, while dexamethasone was effective when added up to 10 h later, suggesting a functional role for post-transcriptional mechanisms of repression. Following dexamethasone treatment, shortening of the average length of COX-2 mRNA poly(A) tails was observed. Finally, ligation of the COX-2 3'-UTR to a heterologous reporter failed to confer dexamethasone sensitivity. In conclusion, these data indicate a major role for post-transcriptional mechanisms in the dexamethasone-dependent repression of COX-2 that require de novo glucocorticoid receptor-dependent transcription and translation. This mechanism involves shortening of the COX-2 poly(A) tail and requires determinants other than just the 3'-UTR for specificity.

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