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J Biol Chem. 2000 Jan 28;275(4):2911-23.

The homeodomain protein Arix promotes protein kinase A-dependent activation of the dopamine beta-hydroxylase promoter through multiple elements and interaction with the coactivator cAMP-response element-binding protein-binding protein.

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Department of Biochemistry, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA.


The differentiation and maintenance of a neurotransmitter phenotype is guided by the interaction of exogenous cues with intrinsic genetic machinery. For the noradrenergic phenotype, these influences combine to activate the expression of the catecholaminergic biosynthetic enzymes tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH). In this study, we evaluate the molecular mechanisms by which the transcription factor Arix/Phox2a contributes to DBH gene transcription. We have evaluated the contribution of individual homeodomain binding sites in the rat DBH promoter region and find that all are essential for both basal and cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA)-stimulated transcription. Using mammalian one-hybrid and two-hybrid systems, we demonstrate that recruitment of Arix to the positions of homeodomain core recognition sites 1 and 2 at -153 to -166 of the DBH gene restores complete responsiveness of the promoter to PKA in SHSY-5Y neuroblastoma and HepG2 hepatoma cells. Intracellular Arix-Arix interactions are evident and may contribute to the interdependence of homeodomain binding sites. Analysis of functional domains of Arix reveals an N-terminal activation domain and a C-terminal repression domain. The N terminus of Arix contains an amino acid motif similar to a region in Brachyury and Pax9 transcription factors. The N-terminal activation domain of Arix interacts with the transcriptional co-activator, cAMP-response element-binding protein-binding protein, which potentiates transcription from the DBH promoter in a PKA-dependent manner. The present study supports the hypothesis that the paired-like homeodomain protein, Arix, acts as a critical phenotype-specific regulator of the DBH promoter by serving as an integrator of signal-dependent transcription activators within the network of the general transcription machinery.

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