Transcriptional regulation of catecholamine-synthesizing genes is important for the determination of neurotransmitters during brain development. We found that three catecholamine-synthesizing genes were transcriptionally up-regulated in cloned PC12D cells overexpressing V-1, a protein that is highly expressed during postnatal brain development (1). To reveal the molecular mechanism to regulate the expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), which is the rate-limiting enzyme for catecholamine biosynthesis, we analyzed the transcription factors responsible for TH induction in the V-1 clonal cells. First, by using reporter constructs, we found that the transcription mediated by cAMP-responsive element (CRE) was selectively enhanced in the V-1 cells, and TH promoter activity was totally dependent on the CRE in the promoter region of the TH gene. Next, immunoblot analyses and a transactivation assay using a GAL4 reporter system revealed that ATF-2, but not cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (CREB), was highly phosphorylated and activated in the V-1 cells, while both CREB and ATF-2 were bound to the TH-CRE. Finally, the enhanced TH promoter activity was competitively attenuated by expression of a plasmid containing the ATF-2 transactivation domain. These data demonstrated that activation of ATF-2 resulted in the increased transcription of the TH gene and suggest that ATF-2 may be deeply involved in the transcriptional regulation of catecholamine-synthesizing genes during neural development.
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