We have previously cloned the human Na+/H+ exchanger NHE2 gene and its promoter region. In the present study, the regulatory elements responsible for the constitutive expression of NHE2 were studied. Transient transfection assays revealed that the −40/+150 promoter region contains the core promoter responsible for the optimal promoter activity. A smaller fragment, −10/+40, containing the TIS (transcription initiation site) showed minimal activity. We identified a palindrome that overlaps the TIS and binds to the transcription factors Sp1 and Sp3. Mutations in the 5′ flank of the palindrome abolished the Sp1/Sp3 interaction and reduced promoter activity by approx. 45%. In addition, a conserved GC-box centered at −25 was found to play a critical role in basal promoter activity and also interacted with Sp1 and Sp3. An internal deletion in the GC-box severely reduced the promoter activity. Sp1/Sp3 binding to these elements was established using gel-mobility shift assays, confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation and co-transfections in Drosophila SL2 cells. Furthermore, we identified two positive regulatory elements in the DNA region corresponding to the 5′-UTR (5′-untranslated region). The results in the present study indicate that Sp1 and Sp3 are required for constitutive NHE2 expression and that the positive regulatory elements of the 5′-UTR may co-operate with the 5′-flanking region to achieve the optimal promoter activity.

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