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Eur J Biochem. 2003 Jan;270(1):2-9.

RE-1 silencing transcription factor (REST) regulates human synaptophysin gene transcription through an intronic sequence-specific DNA-binding site.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Saarland Medical Center, Homburg, Germany.


Synaptophysin, one of the major proteins on synaptic vesicles, is ubiquitously expressed throughout the brain. Synaptophysin and synapsin I, another synaptic vesicle protein, are also expressed by retinoic acid-induced neuronally differentiated P19 teratocarcinoma cells. Here, we show that inhibition of histone deacetylase activity in P19 cells is sufficient to activate transcription of the synaptophysin and synapsin I genes, indicating that neuronal differentiation and impairment of histone deacetylases results in a similar gene expression pattern. The transcription factor REST, a repressor of neuronal genes in non-neuronal tissues, has been shown to function via recruitment of histone deacetylases to the transcription unit, indicating that modulation of the chromatin structure via histone deacetylation is of major importance for REST function and neuron-specific gene transcription. Furthermore, REST has been shown to be the major regulator of neuronal expression of synapsin I. Here, we have identified a functional binding site for REST in the first intron of the human synaptophysin gene indicating that REST blocks human synaptophysin gene transcription through an intronic neuron-specific silencer element. The synaptophysin promoter is, however, devoid of neuron-specific genetic elements and directs transcription in both neuronal and non-neuronal cells. Using a dominant-negative approach we have identified the transcription factor Sp1 as one of the regulators responsible for constitutive transcription of the human synaptophysin gene.

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