Using a luciferase reporter assay, we previously demonstrated that a Z-DNA-forming sequence of alternating thymine-guanine repeats in the human heme oxygenase-1 gene (HO-1) promoter is involved in nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2 (NF-E2)-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-mediated HO-1 promoter activation. However, the actual Z-DNA formation in this native genomic locus has not been experimentally demonstrated. To detect Z-DNA formation in vivo, we generated a construct containing the Z-DNA-binding domain of human adenosine deaminase acting on double-stranded RNA 1 fused with enhanced green fluorescence protein, designated as the Z-probe. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay using an anti-GFP antibody showed that the Z-probe detects the well-characterized Z-DNA formation in the CSF1 promoter. Using this detection system, we demonstrated that the glutathione-depleting agent, diethyl maleate, induced Nrf2-dependent Z-DNA formation in the HO-1 promoter, but not in the thioredoxin reductase 1 gene promoter. Moreover, a time course analysis revealed that Z-DNA formation precedes HO-1 transcriptional activation. Concurrent with Z-DNA formation, nucleosome occupancy was reduced, and the recruitment of RNA polymerase II was enhanced in the HO-1 promoter region, suggesting that Z-DNA formation enhances HO-1 gene transcription. Furthermore, Nrf2-induced BRG1 recruitment to the HO-1 promoter temporarily occurred simultaneously with Z-DNA formation. Thus, these results implicate Nrf2-dependent Z-DNA formation in HO-1 transcriptional activation and suggest the involvement of BRG1 in Z-DNA formation.
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