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J Clin Invest. 1988 May;81(5):1506-10.

Transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of tumor necrosis factor gene expression in human monocytes.

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Laboratory of Clinical Pharmacology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Regulation of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) gene expression was investigated in resting human monocytes and in 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) activated monocytes. TNF transcripts were undetectable in resting monocytes. However, in TPA-activated monocytes, TNF mRNA was first detectable by 3 h and reached maximal levels by 12 h of drug exposure. Using run-on transcription assays, the TNF gene was transcriptionally inactive in resting monocytes, but was rapidly activated after TPA exposure. The protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide (CHX), had no detectable effect on levels of TNF transcripts in resting monocytes, while this agent superinduced the level of TNF mRNA by 50-fold in TPA-activated cells. TPA activated monocytes were also exposed to actinomycin D and/or CHX to determine whether transcriptional or posttranscriptional control of TNF gene expression was responsible for the induction of TNF transcripts. After 1 h of actinomycin D treatment, the amount of TNF transcripts was reduced by 75%. In contrast, no difference in TNF mRNA levels was observed in TPA-activated monocytes exposed to CHX alone or CHX in combination with actinomycin D. These findings indicated that CHX prevented the degradation of TNF mRNA by inhibiting the synthesis of a labile protein. Run-on transcription assays performed on cells exposed to either TPA or the combination of TPA and CHX further indicated that CHX treatment increased transcription of the TNF gene. Thus, TNF gene expression is controlled at the transcriptional level in resting human monocytes, while both transcriptional and posttranscriptional events regulate the level of TNF transcripts in TPA-activated cells.

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