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Life Sci. 2003 May 16;72(26):2975-92.

The egr-1 gene is induced by DNA-damaging agents and non-genotoxic drugs in both normal and neoplastic human cells.

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Department of General Surgery, ECHO-Laboratory, Martin-Luther-University, D-06097, Halle, Germany.


The human egr-1 gene encodes a zinc finger transcription factor induced by endogenous and exogenous stimuli such as growth factors, cytokines, and mitogens. Egr-1 regulates other genes involved in growth and differentiation. The present study investigated the influence of genotoxic agents, such as chemotherapy drugs and other DNA damaging agents, on egr-1 expression in normal and neoplastic cells. A transcriptional fusion between the human egr-1 promoter and the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) gene was used for direct visualization of intracellular Egr-1 regulation. The transcriptional activity of the egr-1 promoter in this reporter system faithfully reflects intrinsic egr-1 expression and induction, as demonstrated by FACS analysis of fluorescence and by RT-PCR for egr-1. EGFP was expressed under the control of the egr-1 promoter in stably transfected immortalized cell lines, such as HEK293, T98G, LNZ308, and 9L, which were then treated with genotoxic agents.A multitude of DNA damaging agents and therapeutic drugs caused significant upregulation of egr-1 transcription. Furthermore, cytotoxic compounds without a direct DNA damaging effect, such as resveratrol and vincristine, which interfere with DNA replication and cell division, were also able to activate egr-1 transcription. This suggests that cell cycle arrest rather than DNA damage seems to be the condition triggering egr-1 transcription. Moreover, treatment with the MAP kinase (MAPK) inhibitor SB203580, which specifically blocks the stress inducible p38/SAPK2 pathway, did not alter egr-1 induction. On the other hand, treatment with the inhibitor PD98059, which specifically blocks the MAPK/ERK pathway, partially suppressed the induction effect. In addition, the egr-1 induction effect caused by genotoxic stress was found to be at least in part independent from the cellular p53 status, as it was observed in p53-deficient as well as in wild type p53 cell lines. These results suggest that induction of egr-1, a gene to which until now no relation to DNA repair has been assigned, may belong to the fundamental cellular responses elicited by genotoxic and mitotic stress in normal as well as in neoplastic cells, and that enhanced levels of Egr-1 protein may be needed to regulate genes involved in DNA repair, cell survival, and apoptosis.

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