Regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase transcription by hnRNP K and DNA secondary structure
Nucleic Acid Conformation
Regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase gene (Th) transcription is critical for specifying and maintaining the dopaminergic neuronal phenotype. Here we define a molecular regulatory mechanism for Th transcription conserved in tetrapod vertebrates. We show that heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) K is a transactivator of Th transcription. It binds to previously unreported and evolutionarily conserved G:C-rich regions in the Th proximal promoter. hnRNP K directly binds to C-rich single-stranded DNA within these conserved regions and also associates with double-stranded sequences when proteins, such as CRE-binding protein, are bound to an adjacent cis-regulatory element. The single DNA strands within the conserved G:C-rich regions adopt either G-quadruplex or i-motif secondary structures. We also show that small molecule-mediated stabilization of these secondary structures represses Th promoter activity. These data suggest that these secondary structures are targets for pharmacological modulation of the dopaminergic phenotype.