The Autoimmune Regulator (AIRE) is a regulator of transcription in the thymic medulla, where it controls the expression of a large set of peripheral-tissue specific genes. AIRE interacts with the transcriptional coactivator and acetyltransferase CBP and synergistically cooperates with it in transcriptional activation. Here, we aimed to study a possible role of AIRE acetylation in the modulation of its activity. We found that AIRE is acetylated in tissue culture cells and this acetylation is enhanced by overexpression of CBP and the CBP paralog p300. The acetylated lysines were located within nuclear localization signal and SAND domain. AIRE with mutations that mimicked acetylated K243 and K253 in the SAND domain had reduced transactivation activity and accumulated into fewer and larger nuclear bodies, whereas mutations that mimicked the unacetylated lysines were functionally similar to wild-type AIRE. Analogously to CBP, p300 localized to AIRE-containing nuclear bodies, however, the overexpression of p300 did not enhance the transcriptional activation of AIRE-regulated genes. Further studies showed that overexpression of p300 stabilized the AIRE protein. Interestingly, gene expression profiling revealed that AIRE, with mutations mimicking K243/K253 acetylation in SAND, was able to activate gene expression, although the affected genes were different and the activation level was lower from those regulated by wild-type AIRE. Our results suggest that the AIRE acetylation can influence the selection of AIRE activated genes.
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