The hRFC (human reduced folate carrier) is ubiquitously but differentially expressed in human tissues and its levels are regulated by up to seven non-coding regions (A1, A2, A, B, C, D and E) and at least four promoters. For the hRFC-B basal promoter, regulation involves binding of Sp (specificity protein) transcription factors to a critical GC-box. By transiently transfecting HT1080 cells with 5′- and 3′-deletion constructs spanning 1057 bp of upstream sequence, a transcriptionally important region was localized to 158 bp flanking the transcriptional start sites. By gel shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, USF (upstream stimulatory factor), Sp1 and Ikaros-related proteins were bound to consensus elements (one E-box, two GC-box and three Ikaros) within this region. The functional importance of these elements was confirmed by transient tranfections of HT1080 cells with hRFC-B reporter constructs in which they were mutated, and by co-transfections of Drosophila Mel-2 cells with wild-type hRFC-B promoter and expression constructs for USF1, USF2a, Sp1 and Ikaros 2 and 8. Both USF1 and Sp1 proteins transactivated the hRFC-B promoter. Sp1 combined with USF1 resulted in a synergistic transactivation. Identical results were obtained with USF2a. Ikaros 2 was a repressor of hRFC-B promoter activity whose effects were partly reversed by the dominant-negative Ikaros 8. In HT1080 cells, transfection with Ikaros 2 decreased endogenous hRFC-B transcripts, whereas USF1 and Sp1 increased transcript levels. Ikaros 2 also decreased reporter gene activity and levels of acetylated chromatin associated with the endogenous promoter. Collectively, these results identify transcriptionally important regions in the hRFC-B promoter that include multiple GC-box, Ikaros and E-box elements. Our results also suggest that co-operative interactions between transcription factors Sp1 and USF are essential for high-level hRFC-B transactivation and imply that these effects are modulated by the family of Ikaros proteins and by histone acetylation.

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