Facilitates chromatin transcription (FACT) is a chromatin remodeling complex with two subunits: SSRP1 and SPT16. Mechanisms controlling FACT levels are of interest, since the complex is not expressed in most differentiated cells, but is frequently upregulated in cancer, particularly in poorly differentiated, aggressive tumors. Moreover, inhibition of FACT expression or function in tumor cells interferes with their survival. Here we demonstrate that SSRP1 and SPT16 protein levels decline upon induction of cellular differentiation or senescence in vitro and that similar declines in protein levels for both SSRP1 and SPT16 occur upon RNAi-mediated knockdown of either SSRP1 or SPT16. The interdependence of SSRP1 and SPT16 protein levels was found to be due to their association with SSRP1 and SPT16 mRNAs, which stabilizes the proteins. In particular, presence of SSRP1 mRNA is critical for SPT16 protein stability. In addition, binding of SSRP1 and SPT16 mRNAs to the FACT complex increases the stability and efficiency of translation of the mRNAs. These data support a model in which the FACT complex is stable when SSRP1 mRNA is present, but quickly degrades when SSRP1 mRNA levels drop. In the absence of FACT complex, SSRP1 and SPT16 mRNAs are unstable and inefficiently translated, making reactivation of FACT function unlikely in normal cells. Thus, we have described a complex and unusual mode of regulation controlling cellular FACT levels that results in amplified and stringent control of FACT activity. The FACT dependence of tumor cells suggests that mechanisms controlling FACT levels could be targeted for anticancer therapy.
Keywords: FACT; SPT16; SSRP1; mRNA stability; protein stability.