Thyroid hormone regulates the oxytocin gene

J Biol Chem. 1992 Feb 25;267(6):3771-7.


Endocrine factors involved in the transcriptional regulation of the oxytocin (OT) gene were investigated in heterologous expression systems. Plasmids having a 5'-flanking region of the rat OT gene (-363/+16) or the human OT gene (-382/+41) cloned in front of the firefly luciferase gene were co-transfected with an expression vector for the rat thyroid hormone receptor alpha in P19 embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells. Thyroid hormone (T3) stimulated the activity of the rat and human OT promoters about 10-fold. In MCF-7 breast tumor cells transfected with the human OT promoter-luciferase fusion gene, T3 stimulation through endogenous thyroid hormone receptors was about 5-fold. Co-transfection experiments in P19EC cells using 5' deletion mutants of the rat OT gene showed that thyroid hormone responsiveness was located in two regions, one located between nucleotides -195 and -172, the other between nucleotides -172 and -148. Each region accounted for about 3-fold T3 stimulation. Gel retardation analysis using extracts from HeLa cells over-producing the c-erbA/TR alpha protein showed specific binding to the -172/-148 element, while no binding occurred on the -195/-172 element. The -172/-148 element which contains the imperfect estrogen response element, GGTGACCTTGACC, has inverted as well as direct repeats of the TGACC motif. Mutagenesis of TGACC motifs separately reduced thyroid hormone responsiveness by about 50%. However, simultaneous mutation of two TGACC motifs abolished the responsiveness to T3 completely. There was no cooperativity between the activated thyroid hormone and estrogen receptors in transfected MCF-7 cells nor in thyroid hormone receptor and estrogen receptor co-transfected P19EC cells. Negative interactions between these two receptors were observed and gel retardation assays showed interaction between the two receptors proteins. It was shown in an in vivo experiment that treatment of rats with thyroid hormone increased hypothalamic OT mRNA levels, the pituitary OT content, as well as OT levels in blood. The results reveal thyroid hormone as a physiological regulator of OT gene expression, which stimulates OT promoter activity directly through interaction with a thyroid hormone-response element in the OT gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Coleoptera / enzymology
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Oxytocin / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Thyroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transfection


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Oxytocin
  • RNA
  • Luciferases