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Biochimie. 2010 Mar;92(3):317-20. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2009.12.012. Epub 2010 Jan 1.

Mechanisms of triplex DNA-mediated inhibition of transcription initiation in cells.

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Laboratory of Experimental Oncology, Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, Via Vela 6, Bellinzona, Switzerland.


Triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) are attractive tools to control gene expression at the transcriptional level. This anti-gene approach has proven to be successful in various experimental settings. However, the mechanisms leading to transcriptional repression in cells have not been fully investigated yet. Here, we examined the consequence of triplex DNA formation on the binding of transcriptional activators, co-activators and RNA Polymerase II to the ets2 gene promoter using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. The triplex target sequence was located approximately 40-bp upstream of the transcription start site (TSS) and overlapped an Sp1 binding site relevant for ets2 transcription. We found that the ets2-TFO prevented binding of Sp1, TAF(II)130 and TAF(II)250 to the ets2 promoter, while binding of RNA polymerase II and TBP were not affected. The effects were both sequence and target specific, since the TFO had no effect on the c-myc promoter and a mutated ets2 promoter construct. Thus, triplex DNA formation near a TSS leads to formation of a non-functional pre-initiation complex (PIC) by blocking binding of transcriptional activators and co-activator molecules. This is the first direct demonstration of interference with PIC assembly at the TSS by oligonucleotide-triplex DNA formation in cells.

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