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JG LeHoux and A Lefebvre

We studied the regulation of the hamster CYP11B2 gene in the NCI-H295 cell line, which is known to produce aldosterone in response to stimulation by angiotensin II (AII) and KCl. Ten deletion plasmids harboring the 5'-untranslated region of the CYP11B2 gene were used for chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) assays. Transient transfections showed progressively increasing basal promoter activity by constructs beyond the TATA box, with a peak occurring with the -167 bp construct which contains putative Adl, Ad2, Ad5 and the newly reported -143/-161 cis-element sequences. The promoter activity was lower with the construct containing the putative Ad3 cis-element and increased with longer constructs. This indicates the presence of both inhibitory and stimulatory cis-elements in this area of the gene. Expression of the reporter gene of all constructs was stimulated by AII and KCl, with the exception of the construct containing only the TATA box, which showed 6-fold and 10-fold increases occurring with the -167 bp deletion plasmid. The patterns of increase in CAT activity with AII and KCI treatment were similar, showing that these two regulators can stimulate hamster CYP11B2 promoter activity through common cis-elements. The calcium channel antagonist nifedipine blocked the stimulatory effects of KCl on CAT activity, showing the involvement of calcium channels in the regulation of CYP11B2 gene transcription by KCl. 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate, a known stimulator of the protein kinase C (PKC) signaling pathway, was without significant effect on CAT activity. Bisindolylmaleimide, a specific inhibitor of PKC, had a significant enhancing effect (3.4- to 6-fold), indicating that PKC may negatively regulate the expression of the hamster CYP11B2 gene in NCI-H295 cells. A mutation was induced in the sequence -143/-161 of the - 350 bp construct in order to determine its importance in the regulation of hamster CYP11B2 promoter activity. The stimulatory effects of AII, KCl, forskolin and bisindolylmaleimide on CAT activity were significantly less in the mutant than in the wild type. These results confirm that this cis-element is necessary in maintaining a high level of transcriptional activity in stimulated NCI-295H cells. In conclusion, using NCI-295H transfected cells, we have found that the 5'-untranslated region of the hamster CYP11B2 gene possesses transcriptional activity with stimulatory and also inhibitory cis-elements; CYP11B2 promoter activity can be stimulated by AII, KCl, forskolin, dibutyryl cAMP and bisindolylmaleimide. Our results suggest that this gene is positively regulated through the protein kinase A signaling pathway and through calcium channels, whereas PKC may have a negative regulatory effect upon the transcription of the CYP11B2 gene. Furthermore, we have shown that the cis-element -143/-161 in the 5'-untranslated region of the hamster CYP11B2 gene is important in maintaining a high level of promoter activity in stimulated NCI-295H cells.

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J.-G. Lehoux and A. Lefebvre


Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor mRNA was found in both rat and hamster adrenals. Within 30 min after ACTH administration a significant increase in the levels of both LDL receptor and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) mRNAs was observed in rat adrenals; these levels remained increased for up to 240 min. The increase in the levels of LDL receptor and HMG-CoA reductase mRNAs produced by ACTH was reduced by co-administration of aminoglutethimide while, at the same time, the adrenal cholesterol content of rats treated with both aminoglutethimide and ACTH was significantly increased compared with that in groups treated with ACTH alone. Cycloheximide also induced increased levels of rat adrenal mRNAs for LDL receptor and HMG-CoA reductase, but this effect was not additive with that of ACTH. These results suggest that, in the rat, the short-term effect of ACTH on the levels of mRNAs for the LDL receptor and HMG-CoA reductase is similarly controlled and might be mediated through changes in the adrenal cholesterol content. In the hamster adrenal, however, no significant fluctuations were found in the level of LDL receptor mRNA, although a marked increase was found in the level of HMG-CoA reductase mRNA, 2 h after ACTH administration. This indicates that an important effect of ACTH on cholesterol metabolism in the hamster adrenal is at the level of HMG-CoA reductase. In the hamster, therefore, where the main source of cholesterol for the adrenal gland is de-novo synthesis, it seems that a complex mechanism is involved in the control of LDL receptor gene expression.

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J Guillemot, E Thouënnon, M Guérin, V Vallet-Erdtmann, A Ravni, M Montéro-Hadjadje, H Lefebvre, M Klein, M Muresan, N G Seidah, Y Anouar, and L Yon

We have previously demonstrated that measurement of tissue concentrations of the secretogranin II (SgII or SCG2 as listed in the HUGO database)-derived peptide EM66 may help to discriminate between benign and malignant pheochromocytomas and that EM66 represents a sensitive plasma marker of pheochromocytomas. Here, we investigated the gene expression and protein production of SgII in 13 normal adrenal glands, and 35 benign and 16 malignant pheochromocytomas with the goal to examine the molecular mechanisms leading to the marked variations in the expression of EM66 in tumoral chromaffin tissue. EM66 peptide levels were 16-fold higher in benign than in malignant pheochromocytomas and had an area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve of 0.95 for the distinction of benign and malignant tumors. Q-PCR experiments indicated that the SgII gene was significantly underexpressed in malignant tumors compared with benign tumors. Western blot analysis using antisera directed against SgII and SgII-derived fragments revealed lower SgII protein and SgII-processing products in malignant tumors. Western blot also showed that low p-cAMP-responsive element-binding (CREB) concentrations seemed to be associated with the malignant status. In addition, the prohormone convertase PC1 and PC2 genes and proteins were overexpressed in benign pheochromocytomas compared with malignant pheochromocytomas. Low concentrations of EM66 found in malignant tumors are associated with reduced expression and production of SgII and SgII-derived peptides that could be ascribed to a decrease in SgII gene transcription, probably linked to p-CREB down-regulation, and to lower PC levels. These findings highlight the mechanisms leading to lower concentrations of EM66 in malignant pheochromocytoma and strengthen the notion that this peptide is a suitable marker of this neuroendocrine tumor.