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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999 Dec 15;372(2):261-70.

Transcriptional regulation of 5-aminolevulinate synthase by phenobarbital and cAMP-dependent protein kinase.

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Departamento de Química Biológica, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


5-Aminolevulinate synthase (ALA-S) is a mitochondrial matrix enzyme that catalyzes the first and rate-limiting step of the heme biosynthesis. There are two ALA-S isozymes encoded by distinct genes. One gene encodes an isozyme that is expressed exclusively in erythroid cells, and the other gene encodes a housekeeping isozyme that is apparently expressed in all tissues. In this report we examine the mechanisms by which phenobarbital and cAMP regulate housekeeping ALA-S expression. We have determined that cAMP and phenobarbital effects are additive and the combined action is necessary to observe the cAMP effect on ALA-S mRNA in rat hepatocytes. The role of the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) has been examined. A synergism effect on ALA-S mRNA induction is observed in rat hepatocytes treated with pairs of selective analogs by each PKA cAMP binding sites. A 870-bp fragment of ALA-S 5'-flanking region is able to provide cAMP and phenobarbital stimulation to chloramphenicol O-acetyltranferase fusion vectors in transiently transfected HepG2 cells. ALA-S promoter activity is induced by cotransfection with an expression vector containing the catalytic subunit of PKA. Furthermore, cotransfection with a dominant negative mutant of the PKA regulatory subunit impairs the cAMP analog-mediated increase, but the phenobarbital-mediated induction is not modified. Our data suggest that the transcription factor cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) is probably involved in PKA induction of ALA-S gene expression. Finally, heme addition greatly decreases the basal and phenobarbital or cAMP analog-mediated induction of ALA-S promoter activity. The present work provides evidence that cAMP, through PKA-mediated CREB phosphorylation, and phenobarbital induce ALA-S expression at the transcriptional level, while heme represses it.

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