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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 Dec;79(1-5):173-80.

Identification of the regulatory regions of the human aromatase P450 (CYP19) gene involved in placenta-specific expression.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


Expression of the human CYP19 gene in placental syncytiotrophoblast, ovarian granulosa and luteal cells and adipose stromal cells is regulated by tissue-specific promoters which lie upstream of unique untranslated first exons. In placenta, the majority of CYP19 mRNA transcripts contain 5'-sequences encoded by exon I.1 which lies >35 kb upstream of the translation initiation sequence in exon II. Mononuclear cytotrophoblasts isolated from midterm human placenta spontaneously fuse in culture to form multinucleated syncytiotrophoblast. These morphological changes are associated with a marked induction of CYP19 gene expression. To functionally define genomic regions required for placenta-specific expression, fusion genes containing various amounts of exon I.1 5'-flanking sequence linked to the human growth hormone (hGH) structural gene, as reporter, were introduced into human trophoblast cells in primary monolayer culture and into transgenic mice. Our findings using transfected cells and transgenic mice suggest that sequences between -501 and -42 bp upstream of exon I.1 contain a positive enhancer element(s) that mediates the actions of trophoblast-specific transcription factors, as well as a negative element(s) that binds inhibitory transcription factors in other cell types. Our findings from transgenic studies further indicate that mouse placenta contains the necessary transcription factors required to activate the human CYP19 promoter although mouse placenta does not express endogenous aromatase.

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