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A Blondet, J Gout, P Durand, M Bégeot, and D Naville

The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4-R) plays a key role in the hypothalamic control of food intake, lending importance to the understanding of the mechanisms that regulate its expression. To identify factors controlling the expression of the human (h) MC4-R gene, a fragment containing 1253 bp of the 5′-flanking region of the hMC4-R gene was isolated. A series of hMC4-R luciferase constructs were developed and used to transiently transfect HEK293 and GT1–7 cell lines, both expressing endogenous MC4-R mRNA. Deletion analysis of the 1253 bp fragment showed that the basal promoter activity is mainly restricted to the 179 bp upstream of the transcription start site in both cell types. Mutation of a putative Sp1-binding site located at position −76 bp resulted in a dramatic reduction of the luciferase activity in HEK293 and GT1–7 cells by 87 and 80% respectively. Both in vitro and in vivo studies (gel shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses) revealed binding of both Sp1 and Sp3 to this site in HEK293 cells. Cotransfection with an Sp1 expression vector in Drosophila cells that do not express Sp1, in conjunction with treatment of HEK293 cells with mithramycin A, a specific inhibitor of Sp1, confirmed the role of Sp1. For the first time, we have demonstrated that the constitutive activity of the hMC4-R promoter is dependent upon Sp transcription factors.

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A Blondet, M Doghman, P Durand, M Begeot, and D Naville

Expression of the melanocortin receptor (MC2R) gene is limited to adrenocortical cells and the aim of this study was to determine the factors responsible for this tissue specificity. We used different fragments of the human (h) MC2R gene promoter, inserted in a vector upstream of the luciferase reporter gene, to transiently transfect either bovine adrenocortical (BAC) cells or granulosa cells from bovine ovaries (B-Gran). Similar promoter activities were obtained in both cell types using constructs containing fragments up to 1017 bp of the hMC2R gene promoter. On the contrary, a 2-fold decrease was obtained after transfection of the B-Gran cells with vectors containing 1069 bp and more of the promoter. Results obtained here using BAC cells confirmed our previous data on human cells showing that steroidogenic factor 1 is the major transactivating factor involved in the basal expression of the hMC2R gene in adrenal cells. However, we showed that this factor did not permit, by itself, the expression of the hMC2R gene in B-Gran cells despite its expression in these cells. This study demonstrated for the first time that an E-box (located at -1020 bp) is involved in the repression of hMC2R gene expression in granulosa cells through interactions with several factors, such as activator protein 4, as suggested by electrophoretic mobility shift assay analyses.

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M Vigier, M Weiss, M H Perrard, M Godet, and P Durand

The role of FSH and of testosterone in spermatogenesis has been a matter of controversy. In the present study, we addressed the involvement of these hormones in the regulation of the completion of meiosis of male rats under in vitro conditions. In the first series of experiments, middle/late pachytene spermatocytes were cocultured with Sertoli cells for 2 weeks in the absence or presence of FSH and/or testosterone. Treatment with both FSH and testosterone reduced slightly the percentage of apoptotic germinal cells in the cultures. Moreover, the number of round spermatids formed in vitro was enhanced by FSH or testosterone when compared with control cultures. Neither hormone influenced the half-life of round spermatids under the present culture conditions. The amounts of TP1 mRNAs in FSH- or FSH plus testosterone-treated cultures were higher than those of controls. In another series of experiments, round spermatids were incubated for 24 h in media conditioned by Sertoli cells cultured in the absence or presence of FSH and/or testosterone. TP1 mRNA contents of round spermatids incubated in media from Sertoli cells cultured in the presence of FSH and/or testosterone were two- to threefold higher than those of spermatids incubated in media from Sertoli cells cultured without hormones. These results indicate that FSH and testosterone have positive and somewhat overlapping effects on the meiotic divisions and the post-meiotic expression of a germ cell-specific gene, effects which cannot be related solely to their ability to reduce germinal cell apoptosis. Use of this culture system should help to test the effect of any hormone or factor on those steps in order to understand better their regulation.

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N Picard-Hagen, A Penhoat, D Hue, C Jaillard, and P Durand


We have shown previously that chronic treatment with glucocorticoids enhances both ACTH-induced cAMP production and ACTH- or 8Br-cAMP-induced steroidogenesis of cultured ovine adrenocortical cells. This treatment has been shown to involve an increase in the number of ACTH receptors. The present study aimed to explore the mechanism of this effect of glucocorticoids on ACTH receptors. Ovine adrenocortical cells expressed one major ACTH receptor transcript of 3·6 kb and three minor ones of 4·2, 1·8 and 1·3 kb. Dexamethasone treatment of cultured cells increased the levels of all these transcripts in a time- and dose-dependent manner, with an EC50 of (1·5±0·6) × 10−8 m. The mean increase over control with 10−6 m dexamethasone was 144 ± 11% (n=14). This enhancing effect was specific for glucocorticosteroids. The antiglucocorticoid Ru38486 blocked the effect of dexamethasone. Testosterone did not modify, while high concentrations of 17β-estradiol decreased, ACTH receptor mRNA levels. Treatment of cells with aminoglutethimide (an inhibitor of steroidogenesis) resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in ACTH receptor mRNA levels, which was prevented by concomitant treatment with dexamethasone. Treatment with ACTH also increased ACTH receptor mRNA levels more than twofold. Addition of aminoglutethimide together with ACTH resulted in a smaller increase than that achieved with ACTH alone. Neither dexamethasone nor ACTH modified ACTH receptor mRNA half-lives. However, these two hormones enhanced the levels of both newly synthesized and total ACTH receptor mRNAs. These results indicate that the positive trophic effect of glucocorticoids on ovine adrenocortical cells involves an enhancement of the transcription rate of the ACTH receptor gene. In addition, they suggest that part of the trophic action of ACTH on ACTH receptors may be mediated by ACTH-induced steroidogenesis.