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

Regulation of the alpha-fetoprotein gene by the isoforms of ATBF1 transcription factor in human hepatoma.

We investigated mechanisms regulating expression of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in 3 human hepatoma cell lines, HuH-7, HepG2, and huH-1, producing high, medium, and low levels of AFP, respectively. The silencer, a negative cis-acting element of the AFP gene, was highly activated in huH-1 and HepG2 to repress AFP enhancer activity by 91%, whereas only 26% repression was observed in HuH-7. To account for the difference in AFP production between HepG2 and huH-1, we investigated the roles of two isoforms of the AT motif-binding factor 1 (ATBF1) transcription factor, ATBF1-A and -B. Cotransfection assays showed that the ATBF1 isoforms regulated the AFP gene differently in HepG2 and huH-1. In huH-1 and HuH-7, both ATBF1 isoforms suppressed strongly enhancer activity and slightly promoter activity. In HepG2, on the other hand, ATBF1-A suppressed the enhancer and promoter activities, but surprisingly, ATBF1-B was found to stimulate enhancer activity while showing no effect on the promoter. Levels of ATBF1-A mRNA were similar in all 3 cell lines, whereas the expression ATBF1-B mRNA varied greatly, with the highest level seen in HepG2 followed by huH-1 and HuH-7. These results suggest that, in HepG2, ATBF1-B may have a dominant negative effect to relieve the transcriptional repression caused by its isoform. In support of this view, we found that the N-terminal region specific to the ATBF1-A molecule possessed transcriptional repressor activity. Thus, the use of the ATBF1 variants as well as the silencer may provide a unique mechanism that contributes to the determination of AFP levels in human hepatoma cell lines.[1]


  1. Regulation of the alpha-fetoprotein gene by the isoforms of ATBF1 transcription factor in human hepatoma. Ninomiya, T., Mihara, K., Fushimi, K., Hayashi, Y., Hashimoto-Tamaoki, T., Tamaoki, T. Hepatology (2002) [Pubmed]
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