The transcription of several genes that are preferentially expressed in the liver, including the serum albumin, transthyretin and carbamyl phosphate synthetase-I genes, is specifically decreased in animals consuming inadequate amounts of dietary protein. The high level of transcription of these genes in the liver is directed in part by a number of liver-enriched transcription factors, including hepatocyte nuclear factors (HNF)-1, -3, and -4, and proteins of the CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) family. In the present study, we investigated the possibility that the co-ordinate decrease in transcription of the nutritionally sensitive genes in protein-deprived rats results from altered activity of one or more of the liver-enriched transcription factors. For HNF-4, Western blots indicated no change in the level of nuclear HNF-4 protein in liver of protein-deprived animals, whereas we observed a 40% reduction in the DNA binding activity of HNF-4 as measured by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). Furthermore, the binding affinity of HNF-4 for DNA was unaltered by dietary protein deprivation, while the number of HNF-4 molecules able to bind to DNA (Bmax) was reduced, as determined by Scatchard analysis. This indicates that in the protein-restricted rats a portion of the pool of HNF-4 protein is inactivated or otherwise prevented from binding to DNA. The overall DNA binding activity of C/EBPα and β was increased in protein-restricted animals. This change occurred in the absence of a change in the amount of the full-length forms of these two proteins, quantified by Western blotting. Interestingly, dietary protein restriction specifically increased the level of a truncated form of C/EBPβ (liver-enriched transcriptional inhibitory protein, LIP), which is a potent dominant negative inhibitor of C/EBP function. Analysis of HNF-3 DNA-binding activity by EMSA revealed that HNF-3α and β DNA binding was increased and that HNF-3γ DNA-binding activity was unchanged in protein-restricted animals. We also detected two apparently novel shift complexes with the HNF-3 probe by EMSA, both of which were decreased in protein-restricted animals. HNF-1 DNA-binding activity was increased by dietary protein restriction. We also examined the effect of protein restriction on the DNA-binding activity of two ubiquitous transcription factors, NF1 and Sp1. The DNA binding activity of the major NF1 isoforms was unchanged whereas the binding activity of Sp1 was increased in the protein-restricted animals. In summary, restriction of dietary protein resulted in a number of specific changes in the DNA-binding activity of various transcription factors. Because transcriptional activation typically involves the synergistic action of more than one transcription factor, small changes in the amount/activity of several factors could have a strong net effect on the transcription of many genes.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.