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      Regulation of the Human Growth Hormone Gene Family: Possible Role for Pit-1 in Early Stages of Pituitary-Specific Expression and Repression

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          The somatic cells of a multicellular organism contain an identical complement of genes that need to be expressed specifically and appropriately to allow the normal development and functions associated with an organism. In the eukaryotic cell nucleus, genes are packaged with nucleoprotein histones into chromatin. The human growth hormone (GH)/chorionic somatomammotropin (CS) gene family offers an excellent model to study the relationship between chromatin structure and transcription factor binding in terms of tissue-specific gene expression. The GH/CS gene family consists of five genes (GH-N, GH-V, CS-A, CS-B and CS-L), contained in a single locus on chromosome 17. Although they share approximately 94% sequence similarity, GH-N expression is restricted to pituitary somatotropes while the four placental GH/CS genes are expressed in the villus syncytiotrophoblast. Appropriate expression in vivo is dependent on remote sequences found 14–32 kb upstream of GH-N in the loci of adjacent genes, and these sequences are characterized by five (I–V) nuclease-hypersensitive sites (HS). Pituitary-specific factor Pit-1 binds at HS I/II and plays an essential role in chromatin remodeling and GH-N expression; however, the processes that lead to HS I/II accessibility are unknown. We discuss the possibility that Pit-1-driven remodeling at HS III may precede that at HS I/II in the pituitary. Also, in pituitary chromatin, all five GH/CS genes share similar nuclease sensitivity, suggesting that the conformation of the placental genes is not inhibitory to transcription. Given that the promoters of both GH-N and the placental GH/CS genes contain Pit-1-binding sites, possible mechanisms to restrict placenta GH/CS promoter activity in the pituitary are discussed, including active repression via P sequences located upstream of each of the placental GH/CS genes. Positively or negatively influencing those components known to be important for pituitary transcription may link epigenetic events to key transcription factors in the overall picture of tissue-specific control of gene expression.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Epigenetic regulation by histone methylation and histone variants.

          Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression that are not mediated at the DNA sequence level. Molecular mechanisms that mediate epigenetic regulation include DNA methylation and chromatin/histone modifications. With the identification of key histone-modifying enzymes, the biological functions of many histone posttranslational modifications are now beginning to be elucidated. Histone methylation, in particular, plays critical roles in many epigenetic phenomena. In this review, we provide an overview of recent findings that shape the current paradigms regarding the roles of histone methylation and histone variants in heterochromatin assembly and the maintenance of the boundaries between heterochromatin and euchromatin. We also highlight some of the enzymes that mediate histone methylation and discuss the stability and inheritance of this modification.
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            Chromatin as an essential part of the transcriptional mechanism.

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            The increasingly detailed biochemical definition of the protein complexes that regulate gene transcription has led to the re-emergence of questions about the role of histones. Much recent evidence suggests that transcriptional activation requires that transcription factors successfully compete with histones for binding to promoters, and that there may be more than one mechanism by which this is achieved.
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              Functional consequences of histone modifications.

              Covalent modifications of the histone proteins have well-known roles in gene expression. Experiments reported during the past year have extended this paradigm to include roles for histone acetylation and phosphorylation in DNA double-strand break repair. In addition, new results now provide a definitive example of an acetylation histone code, whereas others reveal the workings of a charge patch mechanism. Finally, exciting research has identified new modifications, complex modification cascades, and functional links to DNA methylation and RNA interference pathways.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                October 2006
                16 October 2006
                : 83
                : 3-4
                : 145-153
                Department of Physiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
                95522 Neuroendocrinology 2006;83:145–153
                © 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 6, References: 34, Pages: 9


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