The somatostatin (SS) gene is transcriptionally regulated via the cyclic AMP (cAMP) response element (CRE), located in the proximal promoter (-41 to -48 bp). We have previously reported that glucocorticoids induce dose-dependent cell-specific alterations in the steady-state SS mRNA level. Here we have investigated direct transcriptional control of the SS gene by glucocorticoids. We have examined transcriptional interaction between glucocorticoids and the cAMP signalling pathway and mapped the 5′ upstream regulatory region of the SS gene involved in glucocorticoid transactivation. Transcriptional regulation was determined by analysis of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) activity in PC12 rat pheochromocytoma cells and A126-1B2 (protein kinase A-deficient mutant PC12) cells, by acute transfection of 5′ flanking SS DNA (- 750, -250 and -71 bp) ligated to the reporter (CAT) gene. Dexamethasone (DEX) induced a dose-dependent 2.2-fold stimulation of SS gene transcription in PC12 cells, but not in A126-1B2 cells. Other steroid and thyroid hormones tested, and retinoic acid, were ineffective, while cAMP and forskolin stimulated gene transcription 4-5-fold in PC12 cells but not in A126-1B2 cells. DEX exerted an additive effect on cAMP-induced gene transcription. Deletion of the promoter from -750 to -71 bp (but not from -750 to -250 bp) abolished all stimulatory effects of DEX without affecting cAMP responsiveness. Mutation of the CRE abrogated both DEX- and cAMP-dependent gene enhancement. Gel electrophoretic mobility shift assays confirmed that the -250 to -71 bp region of the SS promoter (but not the -71 to +55 bp domain) binds specifically to a glucocorticoid response element-sensitive nuclear protein(s) from PC12 cells, suggesting a putative glucocorticoid receptor interaction with SS promoter DNA. We conclude that glucocorticoids regulate SS gene transcription positively. Glucocorticoid-induced transactivation shows dependence on protein kinase. A activity, and may be mediated via protein-protein interaction between the glucocorticoid receptor and the CRE binding protein. DNA sequences upstream from the CRE between -250 and -71 bp in the SS promoter appear to be the target of glucocorticoid action.

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