Distal ERBB2 promoter fragment displays specific transcriptional and nuclear binding activities in ERBB2 overexpressing breast cancer cells

DNA Cell Biol. 2005 Sep;24(9):582-94. doi: 10.1089/dna.2005.24.582.


Overexpression of the ERBB2 gene occurs in 30% of human breast cancers and is correlated with poor prognosis. The deregulation is the consequence of an increased transcription level and gene amplification. Several laboratories, including our own, have identified, in the proximal promoter, enhancers implicated in the gene overexpression. However, our previous studies of a 6-kb ERBB2 promoter fragment revealed the presence of repressing fragments, which were able to overcome the effect of the proximal enhancers. These repressing elements were functional in all cell lines, regardless of their endogenous ERBB2 expression level. Here, we show that a distal ERBB2 promoter region restores high transcription rates specifically in ERBB2 overexpressing breast cancer cells. This distal promoter region thus contains enhancers essential for the overexpression of the gene. By EMSA, performed with nuclear extract of cells overexpressing (BT-474) or not (MDA-MB-231) the ERBB2 gene, we show that at least two sequences of the distal promoter region are bound exclusively by BT-474 extract. Further experiments reveal that AP-2 transcription factors contribute to this differential binding activity, by binding recognition sequences located 4500 bp and 4000 bp upstream of the transcription start site. These sites are occupied by AP2 in vivo, as demonstrated by ChIP assay. Inactivation of AP-2 proteins in ERBB2 overexpressing cells reduces the distal promoter activity up to 70%, indicating the AP-2 factors are implicated in the strong distal enhancing effect. Moreover, we identified a 54-bp fragment that is bound specifically by BT-474 nuclear extract. Further experiments did not lead to the identification of the protein responsible for this binding. Our results thus highlight the importance of ERBB2 distal promoter region and further implicate AP-2 in ERBB2 overexpression in breast cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, erbB-2 / genetics*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / metabolism


  • Oligonucleotides
  • Transcription Factor AP-2
  • Receptor, ErbB-2