Characterization of the sequences of the human CYP19 (aromatase) gene that mediate regulation by glucocorticoids in adipose stromal cells and fetal hepatocytes

Y. Zhao, C. R. Mendelson, E. R. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


The biosynthesis of estrogens is catalyzed by aromatase P450 (P450arom), the product of the CYP19 gene. The tissue-specific expression of the CYP19 gene is regulated by means of tissue-specific promoters through the use of alternative splicing mechanisms. Thus, transcripts containing various 5'-untranslated termini are present in human placenta and other fetal tissues, ovary, brain, and adipose stromal cells. Sequence corresponding to untranslated exon 1.4 is present in 5'-termini of transcripts expressed in adipose tissue and fetal liver, as well as adipose stromal cells in primary culture in the presence of dexamethasone and fetal calf serum (FCS). Identification of hormone-responsive, tissue-specific promoter regions, as well as growth factor-response elements upstream of exon 1.4, may provide insight into the regulation of estrogen biosynthesis in adipose tissue, which is implicated in the development of breast and endometrial cancer. The goals of the present study were to define the 1.4 promoter region with respect to the start of transcription and to characterize the region(s) responsible for conferring glucocorticoid responsiveness on aromatase expression. The transcription initiation site was identified by means of primer extension and S1 nuclease protection analyses. No TATA-like sequence was evident upstream of this site. Various deletion mutations of the upstream flanking region of exon 1.4 and including part of exon 1.4 were made using polymerase chain reaction or restriction enzyme digestion. The genomic fragments were fused upstream of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene. These constructs were transfected into adipose stromal cells and fetal hepatocytes in primary culture in medium containing FCS with or without dexamethasone. The -560/+10 base pair (bp) construct expressed CAT activity after a putative silencer element was deleted, and expression was induced by dexamethasone about 3-fold. Transfection of the -330/+170 bp construct, which contains an upstream glucocorticoid response element (GRE) as well as an Sp1-like sequence in untranslated exon 1.4, resulted in an 8-fold stimulation of expression of CAT activity by dexamethasone. The upstream GRE as well as the Sp1-like sequence in untranslated exon 1.4 were mutated separately, and together, to further confirm whether the GRE or Sp1 binding site play a role in the regulation of promoter 1.4-driven transcription. Mutation of either the GRE or Sp1 binding site, or both, in the -330/+170 bp construct, resulted in loss of dexamethasone-induced CAT reporter gene expression. Gel retardation analyses using nuclear extracts of human adipose stromal cells cultured in the presence of FCS and dexamethasone, and nucleotide probes containing the GRE and Sp1 -binding sequences, showed that factors present in the nuclear extracts bound to the GRE and the Sp1-like sequences in a specific fashion. These results suggest that the GRE in untranslated exon 1.4, perhaps acting in conjunction with the downstream Sp1-like sequence, plays an important role in the transcriptional regulation of the CYPIS gene, and hence estrogen biosynthesis, in adipose stromal cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-349
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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