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J Biol Chem. 2003 Nov 14;278(46):45224-30. Epub 2003 Aug 27.

A tissue-restricted cAMP transcriptional response: SOX10 modulates alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone-triggered expression of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor in melanocytes.

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Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) utilizes cAMP to trigger pigmentation of melanocytes via activation of melanocyte-restricted microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (M-MITF) expression. M-MITF is a melanocyte-restricted helix-loop-helix transcription factor capable of transactivating promoters for multiple genes whose products modulate pigmentation. Although M-MITF promoter activation by MSH is known to occur through a conserved cAMP-response element (CRE), it remains unclear how this CRE exhibits such exquisitely tissue-restricted responsiveness. Here we show that cAMP-mediated CRE-binding protein activation of the M-MITF promoter requires a second DNA element located approximately 100 bp upstream, a site that is bound and activated by SOX10. Mutations in the SOX10 transcription factor, like MITF, results in a disorder known as Waardenburg Syndrome. The cAMP response of the M-MITF promoter was analyzed in melanoma and neuroblastoma cells (which are neural crest-derived but lack both M-MITF and SOX10 expression). M-MITF promoter responsiveness to cAMP was found to depend upon SOX10, and reciprocally, SOX10 transactivation was dependent upon the CRE. Ectopic SOX10 expression, in cooperation with cAMP signaling, activated the M-MITF promoter function and the expression of measurable endogenous M-MITF transcripts in neuroblastoma cells. SOX10dom, a mutant allele, failed to cooperate with cAMP in neuroblastoma cells and attenuated the cAMP responsiveness of the M-MITF promoter in melanoma cells. These observations demonstrate a means whereby the ubiquitous cAMP signaling machinery is harnessed to produce a highly tissue-restricted transcriptional response by cooperating with architectural factors, in this case SOX10.

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