We have investigated the mechanism whereby all-trans retinoic acid (tRA) potentiates the 8-bromo-cAMP (8-BrcAMP)-dependent transcription of the urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) gene in SC115 mouse mammary carcinoma cells. Photoaffinity labelling experiments showed that tRA did not alter the cellular content of cAMP-dependent protein kinase regulatory subunits I and II. In agreement with this, nuclear run-on analysis in the presence of the translational inhibitor puromycin demonstrated that the effect of 8-BrcAMP and its potentiation by tRA were independent of protein synthesis. A transiently transfected 6.6 kb uPA 5´-flanking region-chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) fusion gene mimicked the response of the endogenous uPA gene. Thus 1 mM 8-BrcAMP induced a 100–200% increase in CAT content, 100 nM tRA had no effect and 100 nM tRA+1 mM 8-BrcAMP induced a 300–500% increase in cells co-transfected with tRA receptor and/or 9-cis-RA receptor. Analysis of 5´-deleted constructs showed that the tRA effect required at least two cis regions: -2657 to -2186, encompassing the 100 bp uPA enhancer, and -709 to -324, which exhibited silencing activity. Neither region contained a tRA-response element-like motif. Because tRA receptor and 9-cis-RA receptor interact with activator protein 1 (AP1), we tested whether tRA regulated the uPA enhancer AP1 site in the presence of 8-BrcAMP. We found that a dimer of this site fused to a minimal uPA–CAT fusion gene was responsive to 1 mM 8-BrcAMP (100% CAT increase), not responsive to 100 nM tRA, and synergistically responsive to 100 nM tRA+1 mM 8-BrcAMP (240% CAT increase) in cells co-transfected with Fos and Jun. Synergistic activation of the same construct and of the 6.6 kb uPA–CAT fusion gene was also obtained using tRA and 100 nM PMA. We conclude that multiple cis elements, probably including the uPA enhancer AP1 site, mediate the tRA potentiation of uPA transcription.

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