We have shown that in HepG2 cells treatment with 75 μM t-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ) results in a 2.5-fold increase in glutathione concentration, as part of an adaptive response to chemical stress. In these cells the elevation in intracellular glutathione level was found to be accompanied by an increase of between 2-fold and 3-fold in the level of the 73 kDa catalytic subunit of γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (heavy subunit, GCSh) and the 31 kDa regulatory subunit (light subunit, GCSl). Levels of GCSh and GCSl mRNA were increased by up to 5-fold in HepG2 cells in response to tBHQ. To study the transcriptional regulation of GCSl, we subcloned 6.7 kb of the upstream region of the human GCSl gene (GLCLR) from a genomic clone isolated from a P1 lymphoblastoid cell line genomic library. HepG2 cells were transfected with GLCLR promoter reporter constructs and treated with tBHQ. This resulted in an induction of between 1.5-fold and 3.5-fold in reporter activity, indicating that transcriptional regulation of GLCLR is likely to contribute to the induction of GCSl by tBHQ in HepG2 cells. Sequence analysis of the promoter region demonstrated the presence of putative enhancer elements including AP-1 sites and an antioxidant-responsive element, which might be involved in the observed induction of the GLCLR promoter.

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