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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2003 Aug 29;206(1-2):93-111.

The gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor activating sequence (GRAS) is a composite regulatory element that interacts with multiple classes of transcription factors including Smads, AP-1 and a forkhead DNA binding protein.

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Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Activin responsiveness of the murine GnRH receptor gene promoter is mediated at a regulatory element we termed the GnRH receptor activating sequence (GRAS). Here, we have sought to define the complex of transcription factors that interact at this element. Consistent with activin regulation at GRAS, gel shift analyses and yeast one-hybrid assays reveal Smad4 interaction at the 5' end of GRAS. While overexpression of Smad3 activates a GRAS reporter, Smad3 binding at GRAS was not detectable. A functional interaction of Smad3 at GRAS was, however, detectable in yeast expressing Smad4. Thus, Smad3 interaction at GRAS appears to be dependent on the presence of Smad4. Mutations located at the 3' end of GRAS do not affect Smad binding but eliminate functional activity. Thus, Smad binding alone cannot account for the functional attributes of GRAS. Consistent with this notion, we find that AP-1 binding is immediately juxtaposed to and, in fact, partially overlaps the Smad binding site. Finally, a recently identified member of the forkhead family of transcription factors, FoxL2, is also capable of interacting at GRAS. Furthermore, FoxL2 activation at GRAS is lost with mutation of either the 5' Smad binding site or a putative forkhead binding site located at the 3' end of the element. We suggest that GRAS is a composite regulatory element whose functional activity is dependent on the organization of a multi-protein complex consisting of Smads, AP-1 and a member of the forkhead family of DNA binding proteins.

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