The preservation of tissue and organ homoeostasis depends on the regulated expression of genes controlling apoptosis (programmed cell death). In this study, we have investigated the basal transcriptional requirements of the survivin gene, an IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis) prominently up-regulated in cancer. Analysis of the 5′ flanking region of the human survivin gene revealed the presence of a TATA-less promoter containing a canonical CpG island of ∼ 250 nt, three cell cycle dependent elements, one cell cycle homology region and numerous Sp1 sites. PCR-based analysis of human genomic DNA, digested with methylation-sensitive and -insensitive restriction enzymes, indicated that the CpG island was unmethylated in both normal and neoplastic tissues. Primer extension and S1 nuclease mapping of the human survivin gene identified two main transcription start sites at position -72 and within -57/-61 from the initiating ATG. Transfection of cervical carcinoma HeLa cells with truncated or nested survivin promoter-luciferase constructs revealed the presence of both enhancer and repressor sequences and identified a minimal promoter region within the proximal -230 nt of the human survivin gene. Unbiased mutagenesis analysis of the human survivin promoter revealed that targeting the Sp1 sequences at position -171 and -151 abolished basal transcriptional activity by ∼ 63-82%. Electrophoretic mobility-shift assay with DNA oligonucleotides confirmed formation of a DNA-protein complex between the survivin Sp1 sequences and HeLa cell extracts in a reaction abolished by mutagenesis of the survivin Sp1 sites. These findings identify the basal transcriptional requirements of survivin gene expression.

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