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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Induction of utrophin gene expression by heregulin in skeletal muscle cells: role of the N-box motif and GA binding protein.

The modulation of utrophin gene expression in muscle by the nerve-derived factor agrin plausibly involves the trophic factor ARIA/heregulin. Here we show that heregulin treatment of mouse and human cultured myotubes caused a approximately 2.5-fold increase in utrophin mRNA levels. Transient transfection experiments with utrophin promoter-reporter gene constructs showed that this increase resulted from an enhanced transcription of the utrophin gene. In the case of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor delta and epsilon subunit genes, heregulin was previously reported to stimulate transcription via a conserved promoter element, the N-box, which binds the multimeric Ets-related transcription factor GA binding protein (GABP). Accordingly, site-directed mutagenesis of a single N-box motif in the utrophin gene promoter abolished the transcriptional response to heregulin. In addition, overexpression of heregulin, or of the two GABP subunits in cultured myotubes, caused an N-box-dependent increase of the utrophin promoter activity. In vivo, direct gene transfer into muscle confirmed that heregulin regulates utrophin gene expression. Finally, electrophoretic mobility shift assays and supershift experiments performed with muscle extracts revealed that the N-box of the utrophin promoter binds GABP. These findings suggest that the subsynaptic activation of transcription by heregulin via the N-box motif and GABP are conserved among genes expressed at the neuromuscular junction. Because utrophin can functionally compensate for the lack of dystrophin, the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms regulating utrophin gene transcription may ultimately lead to therapies based on utrophin expression throughout the muscle fibers of Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients.[1]


  1. Induction of utrophin gene expression by heregulin in skeletal muscle cells: role of the N-box motif and GA binding protein. Gramolini, A.O., Angus, L.M., Schaeffer, L., Burton, E.A., Tinsley, J.M., Davies, K.E., Changeux, J.P., Jasmin, B.J. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (1999) [Pubmed]
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