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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 12;279(11):10500-7. Epub 2003 Dec 29.

Functional role for heat shock factors in the transcriptional regulation of human RANK ligand gene expression in stromal/osteoblast cells.

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Department of Medicine/Division of Hematology, The University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


RANK Ligand (RANKL) is a critical osteoclastogenic factor that is expressed on stromal cells and osteoblasts. Most resorption stimuli induce osteoclast formation by modulating RANKL gene expression in marrow stromal/osteoblast cells. However, it is unclear how these stimuli modulate RANKL gene expression in the bone microenvironment. To characterize the transcriptional control of human RANKL gene expression in stromal/osteoblast cells, we PCR-amplified and cloned a 2-kb 5'-flanking sequence of the RANKL gene, using normal human osteoblast derived genomic DNA as a template. Sequence analysis identified the presence of several potential Heat Shock Factor (HSF) responsive elements (HSE) in the human RANKL gene promoter region. Co-expression of HSF-1 or HSF-2 with the RANKL gene promoter-luciferase reporter plasmid in human osteoblastic cells (NOBC) demonstrated a 2-fold and 4.5-fold increase in promoter activity, respectively. RT-PCR analysis for HSF-1 and 2 mRNA expression in human bone marrow-derived stromal cells (SAKA-T) and osteoblast cells detected only HSF-2 expression. As evident from EMSA analysis, in contrast to 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) SAKA-T cells treated with b-FGF demonstrated increased levels of HSF-2 binding to the HSE present in the RANKL gene promoter region. Immunocytochemical staining further confirmed nuclear localization of HSF-2 in both SAKA-T transformed stromal cells and human bone marrow derived primary stromal/preosteoblastic cells in response to b-FGF treatment. Furthermore, b-FGF treatment of SAKA-T cells transfected with the luciferase reporter plasmid containing the hRANKL HSE region (-2 kb to -1275 bp) upstream to a heterologous promoter showed increased levels of transactivation. Western blot analysis further demonstrated enhanced levels of RANKL expression and HSP-27 phosphorylation in SAKA-T cells treated with b-FGF. In addition, overexpression of HSF-2 in SAKA-T cells resulted in a 5-fold increase in the levels of RANKL expression in these cells. These data further suggest that HSF-2 is a downstream target of b-FGF to induce RANKL expression in stromal/osteoblast cells, and that HSF may play an important role in modulating RANKL gene expression in the bone microenvironment.

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