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J Biol Chem. 1997 Nov 21;272(47):29842-51.

Interaction of CArG elements and a GC-rich repressor element in transcriptional regulation of the smooth muscle myosin heavy chain gene in vascular smooth muscle cells.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.


We have previously shown that maximal expression of the rat smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (SM-MHC) gene in cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells (SMCs) required the presence of a highly conserved domain (nucleotides -1321 and -1095) that contained two positive-acting serum response factor (SRF) binding elements (CArG boxes 1 and 2) and a negative-acting GC-rich element that was recognized by Sp1 (Madsen, C. S., Hershey, J. C., Hautmann, M. B., White, S. L., and Owens, G. K. (1997) J. Biol. Chem. 272, 6332-6340). In this study, to better understand the functional role of these three cis elements, we created a series of SM-MHC reporter-gene constructs in which each element was mutated either alone or in combination with each other and tested them for activity in transient transfection assays using primary cultured rat aortic SMCs. Results demonstrated that the most proximal SRF binding element (CArG-box1) was active in the absence of CArG-box2, but only upon removal of the GC-rich repressor. In contrast, regardless of sequence context, CArG-box2 was active only when CArG-box1 was present. We further demonstrated using electrophoretic mobility shift assays that Sp1 binding to the GC-rich repressor element did not prevent SRF binding to the adjacent CArG-box2. Thus, unlike other proteins reported to inhibit SRF activity, the repressor activity associated with the GC-rich element does not appear to function through direct inhibition of SRF binding. As a first step toward understanding the importance of these elements in vivo, we performed in vivo footprinting on the intact rat aorta. We demonstrated that both CArG boxes and the GC-rich element were bound by protein within the animal. Additionally, using the rat carotid injury model we showed that Sp1 protein was significantly increased in SMCs located within the myointimal lesion, suggesting that increased expression of this putative repressor factor may contribute to the decreased SM MHC expression within SMCs found in myointimal lesions.

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