The EMBO journal

Human transcription factor USF stimulates transcription through the initiator elements of the HIV-1 and the Ad-ML promoters.

PMID 8440240


Earlier in vitro studies identified USF as a cellular factor which activates the adenovirus major late (Ad-ML) promoter by binding to an E-box motif located at position -60 with respect to the cap site. Purified USF contains 44 and 43 kDa polypeptides, and the latter was found (by cDNA cloning) to be a helix-loop-helix protein. In this report, we demonstrate a 25-to 30-fold stimulation of transcription via an upstream binding site by ectopic expression of the 43 kDa form of USF (USF43) in transient transfection assays. More recent data have also revealed alternate interactions of USF43 at pyrimidine-rich (consensus YYAYTCYY) initiator (Inr) elements present in a variety of core promoters. In agreement with this observation, we show here that USF43 can recognize the initiator elements of the HIV-1 promoter, as well as those in the Ad-ML promoter, and that ectopic expression of USF43 can stimulate markedly the corresponding core promoters (TATA and initiator elements) when analyzed in transient co-transfection assays. Mutations in either Inr 1 or Inr 2 reduced the USF43-dependent transcription activity in vivo. In addition, in vitro transcription assays showed that mutations in either or both of the Inr 1 and Inr 2 sequences of the HIV-1 and Ad-ML promoters could affect transcription efficiency, but not the position of the transcriptional start site. These results indicate that USF43 can stimulate transcription through initiator elements in two viral promoters, although the exact mechanism and physiological significance of this effect remain unclear.