Regulation and Characterization of Transcription Factor Activator Protein-2 Alpha (AP-2α)
Introduction AP2α is a 52 kDa retinoic acid inducible and developmentally regulated activator of transcription, which binds to the DNA in a sequence-specific manner. Transcription factor AP-2α was isolated from HeLa cells by affinity chromatography using specific binding sites with in SV40 and human metallothionein promoters. Further screening of HeLa cDNA library with oligonucleotide probes predicted partial peptide sequence which led to the isolation of AP-2α cDNA and subsequently it was mapped to chromosome 6 near HLA locus. A differentially spliced version of AP-2α, which lacks most of the C-terminus, encodes a dominant negative protein (AP-2B). Subsequent studies led to the identification of four more isoforms: AP-2β, AP-2γ, AP-2δ and AP-2ε. AP-2 family members can form homo or hetero dimers among themselves through the unique C-terminal helix span helix motif and bind DNA through basic domain lies N-terminus of DNA binding domain. Several evidences suggest that AP-2α can act as a tumor suppressor gene. It has been shown that AP-2α can activate growth suppressor genes like p21WAF1/CIP1. Transforming viral oncogenes like adenovirus E1A and SV40 large T antigen have been shown to alter AP-2α function. In addition, reduced expression of AP-2α has been reported in human breast, ovary, colon, skin, brain and prostate cancers. Further, supporting evidences suggest that more invasiveness and tumorogenicity was observed when dominant negative mutant of AP-2α was expressed in melanoma cells. In this work, we have carried out a systematic study to find the various signal transduction pathways which regulate AP-2 activity as well as we attempted to demonstrate the importance of DNA binding domain in the growth inhibitory functions of AP-2α. HDAC inhibitors (HDIs) activate AP-2 activity through spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) In the literature, ample evidences are available that genotoxic drugs such as adriamycin, induce tumor suppressors like p53 and p73. In this study, we have screened pharmacological drugs which damage DNA and specific inhibitors of various signal transduction pathways for their ability to activate AP-2 activity. AP-2 specific reporter, 3Χ-AP2-CAT was used in this study to measure the AP-2 activity. Of all the compounds studied, we found that Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors (HDIs) efficiently activated AP-2 activity and was found to be specific as they failed to activate 3X-AP2 mut CAT, which contains mutated AP-2 binding sites as well as pGL tk Luc, which contains thymidine kinase minimal promoter and no AP-2 binding sites. To understand the mechanism of HDI-mediated of AP-2 activation, AP-2 isoforms and its coactivators transcript and protein levels were analyzed. We found significant change in transcript levels of the some of the molecules tested. While the endogenous protein levels of various AP-2 isoforms were undetectable, we found stabilization of AP-2α protein expressed from exogenous source in cells treated with HDIs. HDI stabilized AP-2α was found to be functionally active as it showed increased sequence-specific DNA-binding as well as increased apoptosis. While HDIs known for their ability to modulate the gene activities by chromatin remodeling, it is also known that they alter various signal transduction pathways. In an effort to find pathway(s) by which HDIs activate AP-2 activity, we found that HDIs failed to activate AP-2 reporter in the presence of staurosporine suggesting the involvement a staurosporine sensitive pathway(s) in this process. Stauosporine is a non-specific kinase inhibitor of different signaling pathways. Further studies using different pathway specific inhibitors identified that spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) is essential for HDIs mediated activation of AP-2 activity. Syk is a non receptor tyrosine kinase which is known to be activated in stress conditions. Syk is considered to be a tumor suppressor since Syk over expression leads to growth suppression of breast cancer cells and is also inactivated in a subset of breast cancers. These results suggest that HDI mediated activation of AP-2 involves AP-2α stabilization through Syk pathway. Regulation of AP-2 by MAP kinase pathway Cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis are mediated by the activation of mitogenactivated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. These kinases constitute MAP kinase cascades mainly regulated through phosphorylation status. In mammalian cells, at least four MAPKs, namely, extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs), c-Jun N-terminal kinase/stress-activated protein kinases (JNK/SAPKs), p38 and ERK5/big MAP kinase have been identified. The ERKs are usually activated by mitogenic stimuli which in turn increase the proliferation and survival. Over expression of any activator of this signaling cascade lead to the unregulated proliferation of cells. In many cancers, ERK pathways are known to be up regulated. In this study, we found that MEK (MEK is the immediate upstream regulator of ERK) inhibitors - PD98059 and U0126 activate 3X-AP2-CAT suggesting that AP-2 activity is repressed by activated MAP kinase pathway. MEK inhibitor mediated activation was found to be specific because they failed to activate transcription from pGL tk Luc which contains thymidine kinase minimal promoter and no AP-2 binding sites. To understand the mechanism of MEK inhibitor-mediated of AP-2 activation, AP-2 isoforms and its coactivators transcript and protein levels were analyzed. We found significant change in transcript levels of the some of the molecules tested. The endogenous protein levels of various AP-2 isoforms were undetectable. When AP-2α was exogenously expressed, while no change in protein levels and DNA-binding ability was seen, we found evidence for appearance of post-ranslationally modified AP-2α protein in U0126 treated cells. We also found CITED2 (CBP/p300-interacting transactivator 2, co-activator of AP-2α) transcript levels were up regulated in UO126 treated cells. Post translational modifications of AP-2α and increased and increased CITED2 levels may be responsible for MEK inhibitor mediated AP-2 activation. Thus we conclude that ERK pathway, which is an oncogenic MAP kinase pathway, inhibits AP-2 activity thereby suggesting the importance of down regulation of AP-2 activity during transformation. Essential role of DNA-binding domain of AP-2α for its growth inhibitory functions Transcription factor AP-2α has three distinct domains, N-terminal transactivation domain (52-108 aa), C-terminal DNA binding domain (204-408 aa) and dimerization domain (277-395 aa) which lies within the DNA binding domain. AP-2α exerts its effects through binding to specific DNA sequence in the promoter of its target genes leading to either repression or activation. Recent evidences suggest that AP-2α represses many genes through its competitive binding to overlapping AP-2 and other transcription factor binding sites. This suggests an important role exclusively for the DNA binding domain in AP-2α mediated functions. To address the importance of DNA binding domain for AP-2α mediated apoptosis, we have tested the ability different deletion/point mutants of AP-2α with varying DNA binding and transactivation capability to perform growth suppressor function and ability to induce apoptosis. Replication-deficient recombinant adenoviruses expressing different mutants were used in this study. We found that an intact DNA-binding domain alone even in the absence of activation domain is sufficient for AP-2α to inhibit colony formation and to induce significant levels of apoptosis. These results suggest an important role for DNA binding domain growth inhibitory functions of AP-2α and thereby implying the importance of transcriptional repression in AP-2α functions.
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