We investigated the role of B-Myb, a cell-cycle-regulated transcription factor, in the expression of the α1 (I) pro-collagen gene (COL1A1) in scleroderma fibroblasts. Scleroderma or SSc (systemic sclerosis) is a fibrotic disease characterized by excessive production of extracellular matrix components, especially type I collagen. Northern-blot analysis showed an inverse relationship between COL1A1 mRNA expression and that of B-Myb during exponential cell growth and during quiescence in human SSc fibroblasts. Overexpression of B-Myb in SSc fibroblasts was correlated with decreased COL1A1 mRNA expression. Transient transfections localized the down-regulatory effect of B-Myb to a region containing the proximal 174 bp of the COL1A1 promoter that does not contain B-Myb consensus binding sites. Gel-shift analysis, using nuclear extracts from normal and SSc fibroblasts transfected with B-Myb, showed no differences in DNA–protein complex formation when compared with the nuclear extracts from mock-transfected cells. However, we found that B-Myb decreases Sp1 (specificity protein 1) and CBF (CCAAT-binding factor) binding for their specific sites localized in the 174 bp COL1A1 proximal promoter. These results were also confirmed using B-Myb-immunodepleted nuclear extracts. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation assays using SSc nuclear extracts demonstrated a physical interaction of B-Myb with Sp1 and CBF transcription factors, and also an interaction between Sp1 and CBF. In addition, by employing full-length or deleted B-Myb cDNA construct, we found that B-Myb down-regulates the COL1A1 proximal promoter through its C-terminal domain. Thus these results suggest that B-Myb may be an important factor in the pathway(s) regulating collagen production in SSc fibroblasts.

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