DNA elements governing transcription of the ovine cytochrome P-450 side-chain cleavage (CYP11A1) gene were investigated. Three overlapping genomic clones for the ovine CYP11A1 gene were isolated and characterized. The transcriptional start site was located 51 nucleotides upstream from the initiating methionine. Gene transfer experiments were conducted in murine adrenocortical Y1 cells and human choriocarcinoma JEG-3 cells using chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter gene constructs containing promoter fragments from −2700 to −177 bp.
The results demonstrate that DNA elements sufficient to convey a basal level of expression and cyclic AMP (cAMP) responsiveness lie within 177 bp of the transcriptional start, although the possibility that additional regulatory elements reside outside this 177 bp has not been excluded. The ovine 5′ flanking sequence demonstrated 92% homology with the bovine sequence, extending over the entire fragment. In contrast, only four significant regions of conservation between the ovine, murine, rat and human CYP11A1 promoters were found. These regions are positioned within 200 bp upstream of the transcriptional start site.
DNase 1 footprinting was performed to identify DNA elements able to bind nuclear proteins. Primary adrenocortical and placental tissues from sheep were used as the source of nuclear extracts to detect DNA-protein interactions relevant to CYP11A1 gene expression in vivo. Five regions of protection were detected in the first −634 bp of the ovine CYP11A1 promoter. Three of these elements corresponded to the regions which are well-conserved between species. The other two elements resembled activating protein-1 (AP-1) and AP-4 sites and overlapping AP-2/Sp1 sites, and are conserved in the bovine gene but not in other species.
Nuclear protein extracts from adrenals of sheep with different serum ACTH levels (i.e. ACTH-treated, dexamethasone-treated and untreated sheep) protected similar regions of the ovine CYP11A1 promoter fragment. Similarly, the regions protected did not differ when nuclear protein from JEG-3 cells treated with cAMP was compared with that of untreated JEG-3 cells. These results suggest that induction of CYP11A1 gene transcription by ACTH in the ovine adrenal and by cAMP in JEG-3 cells in culture is not mediated by changes in binding of the proteins that interact directly with these footprinted elements.
The elements footprinted by extracts from primary ovine tissue lie within the 177 bp sufficient for cAMP-regulated expression. The correspondence of these elements either to regions conserved between species or to known consensus binding sites suggests that these sequences are cis elements involved in regulating transcription of the ovine CYP11A1 gene in vivo.