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DNase I-hypersensitive sites enhance alpha1(I) collagen gene expression in hepatic stellate cells.

Yata Y, Scanga A, Gillan A, Yang L, Reif S, Breindl M, Brenner DA, Rippe RA
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)


Liver fibrosis is characterized by a dramatic increase in the expression of type I collagen. Several deoxyribonuclease (DNase) I-hypersensitive sites (HS) have been located in the distal 5'-flanking region of the alpha1(I) collagen gene that are specific to collagen-producing cells. To assess the role of the DNase I-HS in regulating alpha1(I) collagen gene expression in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), 3 transgenic mouse lines expressing collagen-alpha1(I) reporter genes were used (Krempen et al. Gene Expr 1999;8:151-163). The pCol9GFP transgene contains the collagen gene promoter (-3122 to +111) linked to the green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter gene. The pCol9GFP-HS4,5 transgene contains HS4,5 and pColGFP-HS8,9 contains HS8,9 positioned upstream of the collagen promoter in pCol9GFP. HSCs isolated from transgenic mice containing pCol9GFPHS4,5 and pColGFP-HS8,9 showed earlier and higher GFP expression patterns than HSCs isolated from pCol9GFP mice. HSCs from pCol9GFP-HS4,5 showed the highest levels of GFP expression and culture-induced expression correlated with induction of the endogenous alpha1(I) collagen gene. After CCl(4) administration, pCol9GFP-HS4,5 mice showed increased GFP expression compared with pCol9GFP mice in both whole liver extracts and isolated HSCs. Several sites for DNA-protein interactions in both HS4 and HS5 were identified that included a binding site for activator protein 1. In conclusion, DNase I-HS4,5 enhance expression of the alpha1(I) collagen gene promoter in HSCs both in vitro and in vivo after a fibrogenic stimulus. The collagen-GFP transgenic mice provide a convenient and reliable model system to investigate the molecular mechanisms controlling increased collagen expression during fibrosis.

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