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Endocrinology. 1998 Mar;139(3):1184-96.

Analysis of molecular mechanisms controlling neuroendocrine cell specific transcription of the chromogranin A gene.

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Department of Medicine, McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Chromogranin A (CgA), a member of the granin/secretogranin family of acidic glycoproteins that play multiple roles in the process of regulated secretion of peptide hormones and neurotransmitters, is specifically expressed in endocrine and neuroendocrine cells. We previously cloned and characterized the human (h) CgA gene and showed that nucleotides -55 to +32 relative to the transcriptional start site that contain a consensus cAMP element (CRE) and TATA-box motif were sufficient for neuroendocrine cell-specific expression. Here, we examined the role of the well conserved CRE in basal and cAMP-stimulated transcription in neuroendocrine cells. Transient transfection studies with hCgA gene promoter/chloroamphenical acetyl transferase (CAT) reporter constructs were conducted in a panel of neuroendocrine cell lines as well as in nonendocrine cell lines. Deletion or mutation of the CRE resulted in loss of neuroendocrine cell specific transcriptional activity. Mutation of a well conserved region (the TG-box) located between the CRE and the TATA box had no effect or resulted in only a modest decrease in activity. Mutation of the CRE in 5'-extended (-2300 to +32 and -700 to +32) constructs resulted in a 50-75% decrease in basal activity in neuroendocrine cells. This emphasized the importance of the CRE in basal transcription and also suggested that other elements between -700 and -55 may act independently of the CRE to contribute to full basal activity in some neuroendocrine cells. Dibutyryl cAMP stimulated transcriptional activity in neuroendocrine cells, and this was abolished by mutation of the CRE. In the presence of a PKA inhibitor, dibutyryl cAMP-induced activity was completely abolished and basal activity was decreased by up to 85%. Similar protein-DNA complexes were formed in gel retardation assays with a CgA-CRE oligonucleotide and nuclear extracts from both neuroendocrine and nonendocrine cells. A predominant complex that was supershifted by addition of a CREB antibody was identical in all cell types. By immunoblot analysis, levels of total CREB protein and phosphorylated (Ser 133) CREB did not differ between neuroendocrine and nonendocrine cells. Phosphorylated CREB was increased by forskolin treatment, an effect that was blocked by a PKA-inhibitor. Expression of the transcriptional cointegrator, CREB-binding protein (CBP), assessed by both RT-PCR and Western blot analysis, did not differ between neuroendocrine and nonendocrine cells. In summary, the CRE in the hCgA gene proximal promoter is critical for both basal and cAMP-induced expression in neuroendocrine cells via a PKA-mediated pathway. However, the neuroendocrine specificity of hCgA gene transcription mediated by the CRE is not a function of levels of total CREB or phosphorylated CREB or its cointegrator CBP. Specificity may be achieved by a PKA-responsive CRE-binding protein other than CREB expressed specifically in neuroendocrine cells, expression of a repressor molecule that binds CREB in nonendocrine cells, or may lie downstream of a CRE-binding protein, e.g. in the activity or amount of cointegrators other than CBP, which are required to couple transactivators to the basal transcriptional machinery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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