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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1994 Feb;78(2):1616-21.

Use of tissue-specific promoters in the regulation of aromatase cytochrome P450 gene expression in human testicular and ovarian sex cord tumors, as well as in normal fetal and adult gonads.

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Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas 75235.


We have previously demonstrated that the tissue-specific regulation of human aromatase cytochrome P450 (P450arom) gene expression is, in part, the consequence of the use of tissue-specific promoters. Promoter I.1 (PI.1) and PI.2-specific transcripts are expressed in the placenta, whereas promoter II (PII) appears to be the only active promoter in the corpus luteum. Testicular and ovarian sex cord tumors with annular tubules (SCTATs) associated with gynecomastia in prepubertal boys and isosexual precocity in girls with Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (P-JS) have been previously reported. In the present study, we investigated the regulatory elements directing P450arom gene transcription in samples of SCTAT from three prepubertal boys and a girl with P-JS and an ovarian granulosa cell tumor from an adult woman, as well as in healthy fetal and adult testicular and ovarian tissues. Placental tissue was used as a control. Using polymerase chain reaction linked to reverse transcription and northern blotting, we determined the tissue-specific use of various P450arom promoters by analyzing specific 5'-termini from messenger RNA templates. Results indicate a universal gonadal promoter (PII) directs P450arom gene expression in healthy fetal and adult ovaries and testes, as well as in SCTAT of the P-JS and an adult ovarian granulosa cell tumor. These results are interpreted to mean that use of PII in human ovary and testis is preserved from the fetal period into adult life as well as in transformed neoplastic Sertoli and granulosa cells. On the other hand, transcripts from placenta are specific for PI.1 (and to a much lesser extent, PI.2). In SCTAT, immunoreactive P450arom is detected only in the cytoplasm of neoplastic cells, whereas the normal-appearing sex cords do not contain any immunoreactive P450arom. These results further suggest that the markedly increased aromatase expression of these transformed neoplastic cells is not a consequence of using different tissue-specific promoters. Rather it appears to involve activation (or failure of inhibition) of the upstream regulatory elements of the same promoter, which is normally functional in all gonadal tissues, namely the proximal PII.

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