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PloS one

Aromatase is a direct target of FOXL2: C134W in granulosa cell tumors via a single highly conserved binding site in the ovarian specific promoter.


PMID 21188138

Abstract

Granulosa cell tumors (GCT) of the ovary often express aromatase and synthesize estrogen, which in turn may influence their progression. Recently a specific point mutation (C134W) in the FOXL2 protein was identified in >94% of adult-type GCT and it is likely to contribute to their development. A number of genes are known to be regulated by FOXL2, including aromatase/CYP19A1, but it is unclear which are direct targets and whether the C134W mutation alters their regulation. Recently, it has been reported that FOXL2 forms a complex with steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) which is a known regulator of aromatase in granulosa cells. In this work, the human GCT-derived cell lines KGN and COV434 were heterozygous and wildtype for the FOXL2:C134W mutation, respectively. KGN had abundant FOXL2 mRNA expression but it was not expressed in COV434. Expression of exogenous FOXL2:C134W in COV434 cells induced higher expression of a luciferase reporter for the ovarian specific aromatase promoter, promoter II (PII) (-516bp) than expression of wildtype FOXL2, but did not alter induction of a similar reporter for the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) promoter (-1300bp). Co-immunoprecipitation confirmed that FOXL2 bound SF-1 and that it also bound its homologue, liver receptor homologue 1 (LRH-1), however, the C134W mutation did not alter these interactions or induce a selective binding of the proteins. A highly conserved putative binding site for FOXL2 was identified in PII. FOXL2 was demonstrated to bind the site by electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) and site-directed mutagenesis of this element blocked its differential induction by wildtype FOXL2 and FOXL2:C134W. These findings suggest that aromatase is a direct target of FOXL2:C134W in adult-type GCT via a single distinctive and highly conserved binding site in PII and therefore provide insight into the pathogenic mechanism of this mutation.