The majority of the colon cancers analyzed to date express insulin-like growth factor binding protein (IGFBP)-4, and antisense inhibition of IGFBP-4 messenger RNA (mRNA) confers a growth advantage to the cells in response to endogenous and exogenous IGFs. We recently reported a significant up- regulation of IGFBP-4 expression in a human colon cancer cell line (CaCo2) on spontaneous differentiation of the cells in culture. This suggests that the expression of IGFBP-4 may be related to growth and differentiation of colon cancer cells. To study the endogenous factors involved in the transcriptional regulation of IGFBP-4, we have isolated and sequenced the human (h) IGFBP-4 promoter. The approximately 1.3 kilobase pair (kb) 5' flanking region of the IGFBP-4 gene is GC rich and possesses several potential regulatory elements. These elements include a typical TATA box with sequence TATAA, located 299 nt from the initiation ATG codon. The cap site is located 14 nt downstream of the TATA box as determined by primer extension analysis. A 14-kb DNA fragment including the 1.254 kb 5' flanking region of the hIGFBP-4 gene was subcloned into a luciferase reporter vector (pGL-2 basic) either in the sense (BP-4-S- pGL) (S) or antisense (BP-4-AS-pGL) (AS) (negative control) orientation, relative to the luciferase coding sequence in the vector. CaCo2 cells were transfected with either the S or the AS vectors on days 2-10 of culture; cotransfection with the SV40-β-Galactidose (Gal) vector was used to correct for transfection efficiency. The ratio of luciferase/β-Gal expression by CaCo2 cells transfected with the S vectors increased significantly from days 3 and 4 to days 5 and 6 of culture, followed by a sharp decline on days 7-9, resembling the pattern of endogenous expression of IGFBP-4 by the cells; the expression of luciferase by the AS vectors remained low and insignificant. These results thus suggest that the approximately 1.4 kb 5' flanking region of the IGFBP-4 gene contains the cis elements required for regulation of the IGFBP-4 gene. Cloning and sequencing of the functional hIGFBP-4 promoter will enable us, for the first time, to study the endogenous factors/mechanisms responsible for the growth/differentiation (cell density) associated regulation of IGFBP-4 expression in colonic epithelial cells.
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