The molecular determinants governing tissue-specific gene expression in the placenta are at present only poorly defined, particularly with respect to the regulation of specific hormone genes whose products are vital to embryonic development and the maintenance of a nurturing maternal environment. In continuing our analysis of the trophoblast-specific expression of the mouse placental lactogen I gene, we now demonstrate that the transcription factors GATA-2 and GATA-3 regulate the activity of this gene promoter. These factors are expressed in placental trophoblast cells, with peak levels of the GATA-2, GATA-3 and placental lactogen I mRNAs each accumulating at midgestation. Analysis of a region of the placental lactogen I gene promoter, previously shown to be sufficient for directing trophoblast-specific transcription, revealed the presence of three consensus binding sites for GATA-2 or GATA-3. Both GATA-2 and GATA-3 bind to these sites in vitro and mutation of these sites results in a significant decrease in promoter activity as assayed by transient transfection into the choriocarcinoma-derived cell line Rcho-1, which expresses endogenous GATA-2 and GATA-3. Furthermore, overexpression of GATA factors in Rcho-1 cells stimulates transcription from a co-transfected placental lactogen I gene promoter. Most significantly, expression of GATA-2 or GATA-3 was found to induce transcription from this promoter in transfected non-trophoblast (fibroblast) cells. These data indicate that GATA factors are both limiting and required transcriptional regulatory molecules in placental trophoblasts, and that the tissue specificity of the placental lactogen I gene is determined, at least in part, by GATA-2 and/or GATA-3.

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