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EMBO J. 1991 Oct;10(10):2931-40.

Several different upstream promoter elements can potentiate transactivation by the BPV-1 E2 protein.

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D├ępartement des Biotechnologies, UA1149 du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The enhancer and upstream promoter regions of RNA polymerase II transcribed genes modulate the rate of transcription initiation and establish specific patterns of gene expression. Both types of region consist of clusters of DNA binding sites for nuclear proteins. To determine how efficiently the same factor can activate transcription when acting as an enhancer or promoter factor, we have studied transactivation by the BPV-1 E2 protein, a papillomavirus transcriptional regulator. By cotransfecting a BPV-1 E2 expression vector and a series of reporter plasmids containing well-defined chimeric promoters we have found that whilst E2 can strongly stimulate complex promoters such as that of the HSV tk gene, it does not efficiently activate constructions containing only a TATA box and initiation site. We show that insertion of upstream promoter elements, but not of spacer DNA, between E2 binding sites and the TATA box greatly increases E2 activation. This effect was observed with more than one type of upstream promoter element, is not related to the strength of the promoter and is unlikely to result from co-operative DNA binding by E2 and the transcription factors tested. These results would suggest that E2 has the properties of an enhancer rather than promoter factor and that in certain cases promoter and enhancer factors may affect different steps in the process of transcriptional activation.

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