Basic helix-loop-helix proteins can act at the E-box within the serum response element of the c-fos promoter to influence hormone-induced promoter activation in Sertoli cells

Mol Endocrinol. 1999 May;13(5):774-86. doi: 10.1210/mend.13.5.0271.


The Sertoli cell is a terminally differentiated testicular cell in the adult required to maintain the process of spermatogenesis. Previously basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) factors and c-fos have been shown to influence Sertoli cell-differentiated functions. The induction of Sertoli cell differentiation appears to involve the serum response element (SRE) of the c-fos promoter to activate c-fos and intermediate bHLH factor(s) that regulate down-stream Sertoli cell-differentiated genes (e.g. transferrin expression). The SRE of the c-fos promoter is influenced through the serum response factor (SRF). Interestingly, an E-box nucleotide sequence is present within the SRE. bHLH proteins act through E-box elements, and the current study investigates the possibility that bHLH proteins may directly influence the SRE of the c-fos promoter. The activation of the c-fos promoter in Sertoli cells was found to be inhibited with the overexpression of the inhibitory HLH protein Id. Analysis of major response elements within the c-fos promoter demonstrated that the expression of Id specifically inhibited the activation of SRE in Sertoli cells and no other elements tested. Mutations in the E-box of the SRE also inhibited the activation of SRE, suggesting the direct role of bHLH proteins in regulating SRE activity in Sertoli cells. In contrast, the activation of SRE containing a mutated E-box was comparable to wild-type SRE in control stromal cells. Analysis of SRE oligonucleotide gel mobility shift assays with nuclear extracts from Sertoli cells demonstrated the presence of both the SRF and the ubiquitously expressed bHLH protein E12/E47. In contrast, no E12/E47 was detected in the SRE oligonucleotide gel shift using control stromal cell nuclear extracts. Observations suggest the binding of E12/E47 to SRE may be a cell-specific event. The SRF and bHLH proteins appear to bind to the SRE and activate the c-fos promoter in Sertoli cells. Observations provide evidence that a bHLH protein can interact with the SRE of the c-fos promoter to influence hormone-induced promoter activation. Cross-talk between these nuclear transcription factors appears to be instrumental in the control of Sertoli cell-differentiated functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Chloramphenicol O-Acetyltransferase / genetics
  • Chloramphenicol O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / metabolism*
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / pharmacology
  • Helix-Loop-Helix Motifs*
  • Male
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotides / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / drug effects
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Response Elements*
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism*
  • Serum Response Factor
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Serum Response Factor
  • Transcription Factors
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Chloramphenicol O-Acetyltransferase