The regulation of transcription of the gene for the β subunit of the FoF1 ATP synthase (ATPsynβ) in brown adipose tissue has been studied as a model to determine the molecular mechanisms for mitochondrial biogenesis associated with brown adipocyte differentiation. The expression of the ATPsynβ mRNA is induced during the brown adipocyte differentiation that occurs during murine prenatal development or when brown adipocytes differentiate in culture. This induction occurs in parallel with enhanced gene expression for other nuclear and mitochondrially-encoded components of the respiratory chain/oxidative phosphorylation system (OXPHOS). Transient transfection assays indicated that the expression of the ATPsynβ gene promoter is higher in differentiated HIB-1B brown adipocytes than in non-differentiated HIB-1B cells. A major transcriptional regulatory site was identified between nt -306 and -266 in the ATPsynβ promoter. This element has a higher enhancer capacity in differentiated brown adipocyte HIB-1B cells than in non-differentiated cells. Electrophoretic shift analysis indicated that Sp1and nuclear respiratory factor-2/GA-binding protein (NRF2/GABP) were the main nuclear proteins present in brown adipose tissue that bind this site. Double-point mutant analysis indicated a major role for the NRF2/GABP site in the enhancer capacity of this element in brown fat cells. It is proposed that NRF2/GABP plays a pivotal role in the co-ordinated enhancement of OXPHOS gene expression associated with mitochondrial biogenesis in brown adipocyte differentiation.

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