Chicken ovalbumin upstream promoter-transcription factors (COUP-TFs) and steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1) play key roles in the transcriptional regulation of steroidogenic P450 genes. Transfection studies showed that SF-1 activated bovine CYP17 promoter activity, whereas COUP-TFs repressed it from the CRS2 element in a mutually exclusive manner in mouse adrenocortical Y-1 cells. COUP-TFI and SF-1 competitively bind to the Ad5 element of the human CYP11B2 gene promoter. Unexpectedly, overexpression of COUP-TFI increased the CYP11B2 promoter activity, whereas overexpression of SF-1 repressed it in human adrenocortical H295R cells. In cortisol-producing adrenal cortical adenomas, down-regulation of nuclear receptors, including COUP-TFs was found. We therefore screened for COUP-TFI-interacting proteins using a yeast two-hybrid system and have identified Ubc9 and PIAS1, SUMO-1 conjugating enzyme and ligase, respectively. Coexpression of Ubc9 and PIAS1 synergistically enhanced COUP-TFI-mediated transrepression of CYP17 gene as well as transactivation of CYP11B2 gene. The SUMOylation-defective mutants of these proteins continued to function as co-regulators of COUP-TFI. These findings indicate that Ubc9 and PIAS1 can function as transcriptional co-regulators of COUP-TFI to modulate adrenal cortical steroidogenesis in a SUMOylation-independent manner.
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