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Mol Cell Biol. 1993 Sep;13(9):5710-24.

Repeated CT elements bound by zinc finger proteins control the absolute and relative activities of the two principal human c-myc promoters.

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Ben May Institute, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637.


Transcription of the human proto-oncogene c-myc is governed by two tandem principal promoters, termed P1 and P2. In general, the downstream promoter, P2, is predominant, which is in contrast to the promoter occlusion phenomenon usually observed in genes containing tandem promoters. A shift in human c-myc promoter usage has been observed in some tumor cells and in certain physiological conditions. However, the mechanisms that regulate promoter usage are not well understood. The present studies identify regulators which are required to promote transcription from both human c-myc promoters, P1 and P2, and have a role in determining their relative activities in vivo. A novel regulatory region located 101 bp upstream of P1 was characterized and contains five tandem repeats of the consensus sequence CCCTCCCC (CT element). The integrity of the region containing all five elements is required to promote transcription from P1 and for maximal activity from P2 in vivo. A single copy of this same element, designated CT-I2, also appears in an inverted orientation 53 bp upstream of the P2 transcription start site. This element has an inhibitory effect on P1 transcription and is required for P2 transcription. The transcription factor Sp1 was identified as the factor that binds specifically to the tandem CT elements upstream of P1 and to the CT-I2 element upstream of P2. In addition, the recently cloned zinc finger protein ZF87, or MAZ, was also able to bind these same elements in vitro. The five tandem CT elements can be functionally replaced by a heterologous enhancer that only in the absence of CT-I2 reverses the promoter usage, similar to what is observed in the translocated c-myc allele of Burkitt's lymphoma cells.

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