Functional characterization of transcription factor USF

Xu Luo, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


USF, Upstream Stimulatory Factor, is a family of ubiquitous transcription factors that contain highly conserved basic helix-loop-helix leucine zipper DNA binding domains and recognize the core DNA sequence CACGTG. In human and mouse, two members of the USF family, USF1 and USF2, encoded by two different genes, contribute to the USF activity. In order to gain insights into the mechanisms by which USFs function as transcriptional activators, different approaches were used to map the domains of USF2 responsible for nuclear localization and transcriptional activation. Two stretches of amino acids, one in the basic region of the DNA binding domain, the other in a highly conserved N-terminal region, were found to direct nuclear localization independently of one another. Two distinct activation domains were also identified. The first one, located in the conserved N-terminal region that overlaps the C-terminal nuclear localization signal, functioned only in the presence of an initiator element in the promoter of the reporter. The second, in a nonconserved region, activated transcription in the absence of an initiator element or when fused to a heterologous DNA binding domain. These results suggest that USF2 functions in different promoter contexts by selectively utilizing different activation domains. The deletion analysis of USF2 also identified two dominant negative mutants of USF, one lacking the activation domain, the other lacking the basic domain. The latter proved useful for testing the direct involvement of USFs in the transcriptional activation mediated by the viral protein IE62. To investigate the biological function of USFs, foci and colony formation assays were used to study the growth regulation by USFs. It was found that USFs had a strong antagonistic effect on cellular transformation mediated by the bHLH/LZ protein Myc. This effect required the DNA binding activity of either USF 1 or USF2. Moreover, USF2, but not USF1 or other mutants of USFs, was also found to have strong inhibitory effect on the cellular transformation by E1a and on the growth of HeLa cells. These results demonstrate that USFs could potentially regulate growth through two mechanisms, one by antagonizing the function of Myc in cellular transformation, the other by mediating a more general growth inhibitory effect.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Luo, Xu, "Functional characterization of transcription factor USF" (1995). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9611647.