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Immunology. 2009 Aug;127(4):530-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2008.03023.x.

Characterization of cis-regulatory elements conferring mercury-induced interleukin-4 gene expression in rat mast cells: a role for signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 and TATA box binding sites.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK.


We have previously shown that oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of a mercuric chloride (HgCl(2))-induced, T helper type 2 (Th2)-driven autoimmune syndrome in Brown Norway (BN) rats. In the context of the syndrome, the oxidative stress-induced mast cell response seems to determine the development of the early phase of vasculitis, while oxidative stress-mediated interleukin (IL)-4 production may contribute to the subsequent Th2-driven autoimmune response. However, the molecular basis of IL-4 gene transcription induced by HgCl(2) in mast cells remains unknown. In the present study, we dissect the critical regulatory mechanisms in the IL-4 gene promoter in the rat mast cell line RBL-2H3. Immunoprecipitation provided evidence that treatment with HgCl(2) increased phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (STAT6). Transient transfection reporter analyses with a series of 5' end deletions of the IL-4 promoter produced evidence that STAT6 and TATA box binding sites are important in HgCl(2)-induced IL-4 gene expression. Subsequent elimination of one or both sites by site-directed mutagenesis significantly inhibited IL-4 promoter activity. Our results provide evidence that STAT6 and TATA box regulatory elements play an important role in HgCl(2)-induced IL-4 transcription in rat mast cells.

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