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Mol Endocrinol. 1998 May;12(5):698-705.

Transcriptional activation of the macrophage migration-inhibitory factor gene by the corticotropin-releasing factor is mediated by the cyclic adenosine 3',5'- monophosphate responsive element-binding protein CREB in pituitary cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine B, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Macrophage migration-inhibitory factor (MIF) has recently been identified as a pituitary hormone that functions as a counterregulatory modulator of glucocorticoid action within the immune system. In the anterior pituitary gland, MIF is expressed in TSH- and ACTH-producing cells, and its secretion is induced by CRF. To investigate MIF function and regulation within pituitary cells, we initiated the characterization of the MIF 5'-regulatory region of the gene. The -1033 to +63 bp of the murine MIF promoter was cloned 5' to a luciferase reporter gene and transiently transfected into freshly isolated rat anterior pituitary cells. This construct drove high basal transcriptional activity that was further enhanced after stimulation with CRF or with an activator of adenylate cyclase. These transcriptional effects were associated with a concomitant rise in ACTH secretion in the transfected cells and by an increase in MIF gene expression as assessed by Northern blot analysis. A cAMP-responsive element (CRE) was identified within the MIF promoter region which, once mutated, abolished the cAMP responsiveness of the gene. Using this newly identified CRE, DNA-binding activity was detected by gel retardation assay in nuclear extracts prepared from isolated anterior pituitary cells and AtT-20 corticotrope tumor cells. Supershift experiments using antibodies against the CRE-binding protein CREB, together with competition assays and the use of recombinant CREB, allowed the detection of CREB-binding activity with the identified MIF CRE. These data demonstrate that CREB is the mediator of the CRF-induced MIF gene transcription in pituitary cells through an identified CRE in the proximal region of the MIF promoter.

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