(O)estrogen receptor-α (ERα), a hormone-dependent transcription factor belonging to the steroid/thyroid-hormone-receptor superfamily, plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of the skeleton. Here we report the analysis of an unexplored sequence inside the bone-specific distal promoter F (PF) with respect to the regulation of ERα gene expression in bone. This sequence, 785 bp in size, is localized upstream of the assigned transcription start site of exon F, at −117140 bp from the originally described transcription start site +1. It contains a TA reach box, a conventional CAAT box and potential regulatory elements for many transcription factors, including Cbfa1 [OSE2 (osteoblast-specific element) core binding factor], GATA-1 [(A/T)GATA(A/G) binding protein], Sox5 [sex-determining region Y (SRY)-type HMG bOX protein, belonging to a subfamily of DNA-binding proteins with an HMG domain], Sry, AP1 (activator protein 1) and CP2 (activator of γ-globin). It is able to strongly activate the luciferase reporter gene in MG-63 osteoblastic-like cells, but not in MCF7 breast-cancer cells. This is in agreement with different transcripts that we found in the two cell types. The footprinting and electrophoretic mobility-shift assays (EMSAs) showed that, inside the region analysed, there were some sequences that specifically reacted to nuclear proteins isolated from MG-63 cells. In particular, we identified two regions, named PFa and PFb, that do not present binding sites for known transcription factors and that are involved in a strong DNA–protein interaction in MG-63, but not in MCF7, cells. The analysis of three transcription factors (GATA-1, Sry and Sox) that might bind the identified footprinted areas suggested a possible indirect role of these proteins in the regulation of ERα gene expression in bone. These data provide evidence for different promoter usage of the ERα gene through the recruitment of tissue-specific transcription activators and co-regulators.

Abbreviations used: DTT, dithiothreitol; EMSA, electrophoretic mobility-shift assay; ER, (o)estrogen receptor; ERE, (o)estrogen response element; FBS, fetal-bovine serum; GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; HRP, horseradish peroxidase; α-MEM, α-minimal essential medium; PF, bone-specific distal promoter F; RT, reverse transcription; TF, transcription factor.

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