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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 1998 Jan;30(1):27-38.

Coupling gene expression to cAMP signalling: role of CREB and CREM.

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Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Illkirch, C.U. de Strasbourg, France.


Several endocrine and neuronal functions are governed by the cAMP-dependent pathway. Transcriptional regulation upon stimulation of this pathway is mediated by a family of cAMP-responsive nuclear factors. This family consists of a large number of members, which may act as activators or repressors. These factors contain the basic domain/leucine zipper motifs and bind as dimers to cAMP-response elements (CRE). CRE-binding protein (CREBs) function is modulated by phosphorylation by several kinases. Direct activation of gene expression by CREB requires phosphorylation by the cAMP-dependent PKA to serine 133. Among the repressors, ICER (Inducible cAMP Early Repressor) deserves special mention. ICER is generated from an alternative CREM promoter and is the only inducible CRE-binding protein. ICER negatively autoregulates the alternative promoter, generating a feedback loop. ICER expression is tissue specific and developmentally regulated. The kinetics of ICER expression are characteristic of an early response gene. CREM plays a key physiological and developmental role within the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. The transcriptional activator CREM is highly expressed in postmeiotic cells. The role of CREM in spermiogenesis was addressed using CREM knock-out mice. Spermatogenesis stops at the first step of spermiogenesis in the mutants and there is a significant increase in apoptotic germ cells. This phenotype is reminiscent of cases of human infertility. ICER is regulated in a circadian manner in the pineal gland, the site of the hormone melatonin production. This night-day oscillation is driven by the endogenous clock (located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus). The synthesis of melatonin is regulated by a rate-limiting enzyme, serotonin N-acetyltransferase (NAT). Analysis of the CREM-null mice and of the promoter of the NAT gene revealed that ICER controls the amplitude and rhythmicity of NAT, and thus the oscillation in the hormonal synthesis of melatonin.

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