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Dev Genet. 1996;19(2):169-81.

Transcriptional control of muscle plasticity: differential regulation of troponin I genes by electrical activity.

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Unit on Molecular Neurobiology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-4480, USA.


Plasticity of the skeletal muscle phenotype can result from the selective repression and activation of gene expression in response to innervation patterns. Motoneurons, eliciting different patterns of depolarization, regulate the contractile properties of the myofibers they innervate by selectively activating expression of genes encoding fiber-type-specific (fast vs. slow) contractile proteins. We have analyzed the regulation of the troponin I slow (TnIs) and fast (TnIf) genes as a model to study the molecular mechanisms regulating fiber-type plasticity. We found that expression of the two TnI isoforms is downregulated by denervation. Moreover, TnI expression is upregulated by specific patterns of electrical activity [10 Hz vs. 100 Hz] used to depolarize muscle. We previously isolated the rat TnIs gene and demonstrated that regulatory sequences reside in its upstream region and second intron [Banerjee-Basu S, Buonanno A (1993), Mol Cell Biol 12:5024-5032]. Using transgenic mice, we show that the upstream region of the TnIs gene extending from -949 to +50 is sufficient to confer transcription specifically in slowtwitch muscles. Serial deletions of the TnIs upstream and intronic regions were generated in a CAT reporter vector to delineate transcriptional regulatory elements in transiently transfected Sol8 myotubes. Sequences necessary to confer the highest levels of TnIs transcription mapped to the upstream region between -0.95 and -0.72 kb, and to a 56 bp sequence located in the second intron. Comparison of the at sequence between -0.95 and -0.72 to the human TnIs gene identified a highly homologous region of 128 bp that we named the TnI SURE (slow upstream regulatory element). Alignment of these two SURE sequences with the quail TnI fast intronic regulatory element identified common motifs, namely, two A/T-rich sequences (A/T1 and A/T2) with homology to homeotic protein and MEF2 binding sites, a CACC box, an E box, and a novel motif (GCAGGCA) that we denoted the CAGG box. Mutation of either the A/T2 site, E box, or CAGG box practically abolish the SURE function in transfected myotubes; mutation of the A/T1 and CACC sites has a lesser effect. Using competitive electrophoretic mobility shift assays with nuclear extracts derived from Sol8 myotubes, we demonstrate specific binding to these motifs. The A/T1 and A/T2 sites are shown to form different complexes. The A/T2 site, which bears extensive homology to a MEF2 site, forms complexes that are super shifted by MEF2A antisera and that are competed by a consensus MEF2 site present in the MCK enhancer. Our results demonstrate that the linear arrangement of DNA sequence motifs is conserved in the regulatory elements of the TnI slow and fast genes and suggest that the interaction of multiple protein-DNA complexes are necessary for enhancer function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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