The c-fos proto-oncogene seems to play an important role during differentiation and activation of cells from the hematopoietic lineage. Therefore, it is of interest to investigate the mechanism underlying its transcriptional activation in these cells. To delineate the sequences and factors involved in c-fos transcriptional activation during the course of myeloid cell differentiation, we have used the K 562 chronic leukemic cell line as a model. K 562 cells were transfected with chloramphenicol transacetylase (CAT) reporter constructs, including various regions of the human c-fos promoter, and induced to differentiate by two distinct agents: 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13- acetate (TPA), which activates a differentiation program along the megakaryoblastic pathway; and hemin, which induces erythroid differentiation. We show here that TPA treatment of K 562 cells induces fos CAT reporter constructs activation, whereas treatment with hemin does not. Furthermore, predifferentiation of the cells with hemin blocks a subsequent induction by TPA, in correlation with the inhibition by hemin of megakaryoblastic differentiation markers appearance. Both the induction by TPA and the inhibition by hemin are mediated by a dyad symmetry element (DSE) located in the upstream regulatory region, between -318 and -296. These results suggest that the protein complex binding to the DSE regulatory element is the target for c-fos activation by TPA and inhibition by hemin in K 562 cells. However, no modulation of protein affinity for the DSE sequence was detected by gel shift assay during the course of induction or inhibition, suggesting that the structural change responsible for the transcriptional modulation is too unstable or too subtle to be detected by this method.

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