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J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 21;278(8):5710-7. Epub 2002 Dec 4.

Post-transcriptional regulation of acetylcholinesterase mRNAs in nerve growth factor-treated PC12 cells by the RNA-binding protein HuD.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Centre for Neuromuscular Disease, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5, Canada.


Expression of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is greatly enhanced during neuronal differentiation, but the nature of the molecular mechanisms remains to be fully defined. In this study, we observed that nerve growth factor treatment of PC12 cells leads to a progressive increase in the expression of AChE transcripts, reaching approximately 3.5-fold by 72 h. Given that the AChE 3'-untranslated region (UTR) contains an AU-rich element, we focused on the potential role of the RNA-binding protein HuD in mediating the increase in AChE mRNA seen in differentiating neurons. Using PC12 cells engineered to stably express HuD or an antisense to HuD, our studies indicate that HuD can regulate the abundance of AChE transcripts in neuronal cells. Furthermore, transfection of a reporter construct containing the AChE 3'-UTR showed that this 3'-UTR can increase expression of the reporter gene product in cells expressing HuD but not in cells expressing the antisense. RNA gel shifts and Northwestern blots revealed an increase in the binding of several protein complexes in differentiated neurons. Immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that HuD can bind directly AChE transcripts. These results show the importance of post-transcriptional mechanisms in regulating AChE expression in differentiating neurons and implicate HuD as a key trans-acting factor in these events.

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