Chromatin structure of the MMTV promoter and its changes during hormonal induction
1. The packaging of nuclear DNA in chromatin determines the conversion of the genetic information into a defined phenotype by influencing the availability of DNA sequences for interactions with regulatory proteins and transcription factors.
2. We have studied the influence of the first level of chromatin organization, the nucleosome, on the activity of the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter. The MMTV promoter is strongly transcribed in response to steroid hormones but is virtually silent in the absence of hormonal stimuli. Full hormonal induction requires binding of the hormone receptors to four hormone-responsive elements (HREs), as well as binding of nuclear factor I (NFI) and the octamer transcription factor 1 (OTF-1 or Oct-1) to sites located between the HREs and the TATA box. A full loading with transcription factors cannot be achieved on free DNA due to steric hindrance between hormone receptor and NFI and between NFI and OTF-1.
3. The low basal activity of the MMTV promoter is most likely due to its organization in a positioned nucleosome. In the intact cell, as well in reconstituted chromatin, the regulatory region of the MMTV promoter is wrapped around a histone octamer in a precise rotational orientation, which permits access of the hormone receptors to only two of the four HREs, while precluding binding of NFI and OTF-1 to their respective sites. Upon hormone induction, the nucleosome is remodeled and the path of its DNA altered in a way which makes the nucleosomal dyad axis more accessible to DNase I and enables occupancy of all relevant sites: the four HREs, as well as the binding sites for NFI and OTF-1.
4. These results suggest that the nucleosomal organization of the MMTV promoter not only is responsible for the low activity prior to hormone treatment, but also may be a prerequisite for full loading with transcription factors after hormone induction. We conclude that the DNA contains topological information which modulates the expression of the genetic program.
Key wordsglucocorticoids progesterone nucleosome positioning promoter accessibility transcription factors gene regulation nuclear factor I octamer transcription factors
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