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Endocrinology. 2004 May;145(5):2221-7. Epub 2004 Feb 5.

Leptin signaling targets the thyrotropin-releasing hormone gene promoter in vivo.

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Thyroid Unit, Division of Endocrinology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston Massachusetts 02215, USA.


The regulation of TRH gene expression in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH) by leptin is critical for normal function of the thyroid axis in rodents and humans. The TRH neuron in the PVH expresses both leptin and melanocortin-4 receptors, suggesting that both signaling systems may regulate TRH gene expression in vivo. Indeed, the TRH promoter responds to both of these signaling pathways in cell culture through identified cis-acting elements, which include signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 and cAMP-response element binding protein binding sites that mediate leptin and melanocortin responses, respectively. To determine whether leptin signaling can directly target the TRH promoter in vivo, we developed a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay to use on leptin-treated animals. After a single injection of leptin in fasting animals, we could detect a significant increase in TRH gene expression in the PVH that correlated well with the induction of phosphorylated-STAT3 in the hypothalamus. Furthermore, using a STAT3 antibody, we could immunoprecipitate the STAT-binding site containing regions of both the TRH promoter and the promoter of the suppressor of cytokine signaling-3 gene, another well-defined target of leptin action. In contrast, upstream regions of these promoters that lack STAT sites were not precipitated. Taken together these experiments demonstrate that STAT3 mediates transcriptional effects of leptin in vivo and that the TRH promoter is a likely direct site of leptin action. In addition, these experiments demonstrate that chromatin immunoprecipitation can be used to characterize leptin-signaling in vivo.

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