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Mol Endocrinol. 1997 Nov;11(12):1782-94.

Msx1 is present in thyrotropic cells and binds to a consensus site on the glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit promoter.

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  • 1University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80262, USA.


Our studies are aimed at identifying the transcription factors that activate the glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit promoter. Therefore, we performed a Southwestern screening of a thyrotropic (alphaTSH) cDNA expression library, using the region of the promoter from -490 to -310 that contains sequences critical for expression in thyrotrope cells. A clone was isolated corresponding to part of the coding sequence of Msx1, which is a homeodomain-containing transcription factor that has been found to play an important role in the development of limb buds and craniofacial structures. Northern blot analysis, using the cloned Msx1 cDNA fragment as a probe, demonstrated that alpha-subunit-expressing thyrotrope cells (alphaTSH cells and TtT97 tumors) contained Msx1 RNA transcripts of 2.2 kb, while somatomammotrope (GH3) cells that do not produce the alpha-subunit had barely detectable levels. The presence of Msx1 protein was demonstrated by Western blot analysis in alphaTSH cells. We also demonstrated that transcripts encoding the closely related Msx2 factor were not detectable by Northern blot analysis in either thyrotrope or somatomammotrope-derived cells. Subfragments of the region from -490 to -310 of the alpha-subunit promoter were used in a Southwestern blot assay using bacterially produced Msx1 and demonstrated that binding was localized specifically to the region from -449 to -421. Deoxyribonuclease I protection analysis, using purified Msx1 homeodomain, demonstrated structurally induced differences in DNA digestion patterns between -436 and -413, and sequence analysis of this region revealed a direct repeat of the sequence GXAATTG, which is similar to the Msx1 consensus-binding site. When nucleotides at both sites were mutated, Msx1 binding was dramatically reduced, and the activity of an alpha-subunit promoter construct decreased by approximately 50% in transfected thyrotrope (alphaTSH) cells. These studies suggest that Msx1 may play a role in the expression of the alpha-subunit gene in thyrotrope cells.

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