Calcium-dependent Nr4a1 expression in mouse Leydig cells requires distinct AP1/CRE and MEF2 elements.

  • Publication date : 2016-04-28


Abdou HS, Robert NM, Tremblay JJ. Calcium-dependent Nr4a1 expression in mouse Leydig cells requires distinct AP1/CRE and MEF2 elements. J. Mol. Endocrinol. 2016;56:151-61. doi: 10.1530/JME-15-0202. PubMed PMID: 26647388.

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The nuclear receptor NR4A1 is expressed in steroidogenic Leydig cells where it plays pivotal roles by regulating the expression of several genes involved in steroidogenesis and male sex differentiation including Star, HSD3B2, and Insl3 Activation of the cAMP and Ca(2+) signaling pathways in response to LH stimulation leads to a rapid and robust activation of Nr4a1 gene expression that requires the Ca(2+)/CAMKI pathway. However, the downstream transcription factor(s) have yet to be characterized. To identify potential Ca(2+)/CaM effectors responsible for hormone-induced Nr4a1 expression, MA-10 Leydig cells were treated with forskolin to increase endogenous cAMP levels, dantrolene to inhibit endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) release, and W7 to inhibit CaM activity. We identified Ca(2+)-responsive elements located in the discrete regions of the Nr4a1 promoter, which contain binding sites for several transcription factors such as AP1, CREB, and MEF2. We found that one of the three AP1/CRE sites located at -255 bp is the most responsive to the Ca(2+) signaling pathway as are the two MEF2 binding sites at -315 and -285 bp. Furthermore, we found that the hormone-induced recruitment of phospho-CREB and of the co-activator p300 to the Nr4a1 promoter requires the Ca(2+) pathway. Lastly, siRNA-mediated knockdown of CREB impaired NR4A1 expression and steroidogenesis. Together, our data indicate that the Ca(2+) signaling pathway increases Nr4a1 expression in MA-10 Leydig cells, at least in part, by enhancing the recruitment of coactivator most likely through the MEF2, AP1, and CREB transcription factors thus demonstrating an important interplay between the Ca(2+) and cAMP pathways in regulating Nr4a1 expression.