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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jan 9;279(2):1197-205. Epub 2003 Oct 10.

Transcriptional regulation of bcl-2 mediated by the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway through gli-1.

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Department of Molecular Pathology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) express high levels of the antiapoptotic proto-oncogene, bcl-2, and we have shown that bcl-2 contributes to the malignant phenotype in a transgenic mouse model. The basis of bcl-2 transcriptional regulation in keratinocytes is unknown. The sonic hedgehog (SHH) signaling pathway is frequently altered in BCCs. Mediators of shh signaling include the downstream transactivator, gli-1, and transrepressor, gli-3. Seven candidate gli binding sites were identified in the bcl-2 promoter. Cotransfection of increasing amounts of gli-1 in keratinoycytes resulted in a corresponding dose-dependent increase in bcl-2 promoter luciferase activity. Gli-1 was also able to up-regulate endogenous bcl-2. Gli-3 cotransfection resulted in no significant changes in bcl-2 promoter activity compared with control. Gli-3 has been demonstrated to be proteolytically processed into an N-terminal repressive form that can inhibit downstream transactivation by gli-1. Gli-3 mutants possessing only the N-terminal region or the C-terminal region were made and used in luciferase assays. The N terminus of gli-3 inhibited gli-1 transactivation of the bcl-2 promoter. Gel shift analysis and luciferase assays demonstrated that gli binding site 4 (-428 to -420), is important for gli transcriptional regulation. Skin samples from transgenic mice expressing an RU486 gli-1 transgene exhibited significantly higher levels of endogenous bcl-2 protein in epidermal keratinocytes as assessed by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. Together, these findings provide consistent evidence that gli proteins can transcriptionally regulate the bcl-2 promoter and that gli-3 can inhibit transactivation by gli-1. These studies further suggest that one consequence of the deregulation of shh signaling in BCC is the up-regulation of bcl-2.

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