The transcriptional regulation of theneu gene: Examples of activation, repression, and cell-specific expression

Duen-Hwa Yan, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The neu oncogene encodes a growth factor receptor-like protein, p185, with an intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity. A single point mutation, an A to T transversion resulting in an amino acid substitution from valine to glutamic acid, in the transmembrane domain of the rat neu gene was found to be responsible for the transforming and tumorigenic phenotype of the cells that carry it. In contrast, the human proto-neu oncogene is frequently amplified in tumors and cell lines derived from tumors and the human neu gene overexpression/amplification in breast and ovarian cancers is known to correlate with poor patient prognosis. Examples of the human neu gene overexpression in the absence of gene amplification have been observed, which may suggest the significant role of the transcriptional and/or post-transcriptional control of the neu gene in the oncogenic process. However, little is known about the transcriptional mechanisms which regulate the neu gene expression. In this study, three examples are presented to demonstrate the positive and negative control of the neu gene expression. First, by using band shift assays and methylation interference analyses, I have identified a specific protein-binding sequence, AAGATAAAACC ($-$466 to $-$456), that binds a specific trans-acting factor termed RVF (for EcoRV factor on the neu promoter). The RVF-binding site is required for maximum transcriptional activity of the rat neu promoter. This same sequence is also found in the corresponding regions of both human and mouse neu promoters. Furthermore, this sequence can enhance the CAT activity driven by a minimum promoter of the thymidine kinase gene in an orientation-independent manner, and thus it behaves as an enhancer. In addition, Southwestern (DNA-protein) blot analysis using the RVF-binding site as a probe points to a 60-kDa polypeptide as a potential candidate for RVF. Second, it has been reported that the E3 region of adenovirus 5 induces down-regulation of epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor through endocytosis. I found that the human neu gene product, p185, (an EGF receptor-related protein) is also down-regulated by adenovirus 5, but via a different mechanism. I demonstrate that the adenovirus E1a gene is responsible for the repression of the human neu gene at the transcriptional level. Third, a differential expression of the neu gene has been found in two cell model systems: between the mouse fibroblast Swiss-Webster 3T3 (SW3T3) and its variant NR-6 cells; and between the mouse liver tumor cell line, Hep1-a, and the mouse pancreas tumor cell line, 266-6. Both NR-6 and 266-6 cell lines are not able to express the neu gene product, p185. I demonstrate that, in both cases, the transcriptional repression of the neu gene may account for the lack of the p185 expression in these two cell lines.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Yan, Duen-Hwa, "The transcriptional regulation of theneu gene: Examples of activation, repression, and cell-specific expression" (1991). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9125574.