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J Biol Chem. 1998 Jul 3;273(27):16715-22.

Bcl-2 transcription from the proximal P2 promoter is activated in neuronal cells by the Brn-3a POU family transcription factor.

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Department of Molecular Pathology, Windeyer Institute of Medical Sciences, University College London, Cleveland Street, London W1P 6DB, United Kingdom.


The BCL-2 protein is able to protect neuronal and other cell types from apoptotic programmed cell death and plays a key role in regulating the rate of apoptosis during development of the nervous system. We have previously demonstrated that the Brn-3a POU domain transcription factor protects sensory neurons from apoptotic programmed cell death induced by nerve growth factor withdrawal. We report here that Bcl-2 transcription is predominantly initiated from the Bcl-2 P2 promoter in both the ND7 neuronal cell line and primary dorsal root ganglion neurons, in contrast to the predominant use of the Bcl-2 P1 promoter in other cell types. Moreover, Bcl-2 transcription initiated from the P2 region increases in ND7 cells stably overexpressing Brn-3a, resulting in enhanced BCL-2 protein levels. Similarly, the Bcl-2 P2 promoter is directly activated by Brn-3a in co-transfection assays in both ND7 cells and dorsal root ganglion neurons. Analysis of the Bcl-2 regulatory sequence revealed a binding site for Brn-3a that is required for maximal activation by Brn-3a both in transfected cells and during differentiation of ND7 cells. Together these data identify Brn-3a as the first transcription factor regulating Bcl-2 activity specifically in neuronal cells and indicate that the anti-apoptotic effect of Brn-3a is likely to be mediated, at least in part, via the up-regulation of Bcl-2 expression.

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