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An 18-bp enhancer controls cell-specific expression of the calcitonin/calcitonin gene-related peptide gene. The enhancer is bound by a heterodimer of the bHLH-Zip protein USF-1 and -2 and a cell-specific factor from thyroid C cell lines. In this report we have identified the cell-specific factor as the forkhead protein Foxa2 (previously HNF-3beta). Binding of Foxa2 to the 18-bp enhancer was demonstrated using electrophoretic mobility shift assays. The cell-specific DNA-protein complex was selectively competed by a series of Foxa2 DNA binding sites, and the addition of Foxa2 antiserum supershifted the complex. Likewise, a complex similar to that seen with extracts from thyroid C cell lines was generated using an extract from heterologous cells expressing recombinant Foxa2. Interestingly, overexpression of Foxa2 activated the 18-bp enhancer in heterologous cells but only in the presence of the adjacent helix-loop-helix motif. Likewise, coexpression of USF proteins with Foxa2 yielded greater activation than by Foxa2 alone. Unexpectedly, Foxa2 overexpression repressed activity in the CA77 thyroid C cell line, suggesting that Foxa2 may interact with additional cofactors. The stimulatory role of Foxa2 at the calcitonin/calcitonin gene-related peptide gene enhancer was confirmed by short interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of Foxa2. As seen with Foxa2 overexpression, the effect of Foxa2 knockdown also required the adjacent helix-loop-helix motif. These results provide the first evidence for combinatorial control of gene expression by bHLH-Zip and forkhead proteins.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





49948 - 49955


Animals, Calcitonin, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide, DNA-Binding Proteins, Enhancer Elements, Genetic, Gene Expression Regulation, Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-beta, Humans, Nuclear Proteins, Rats, Transcription Factors, Upstream Stimulatory Factors