We have reported that excessive steroid hormone production in adrenal cortical tumors results from the disordered expression and activity of specific steroidogenic enzymes. Since no genetic mutations in these steroidogenic enzymes have as yet been identified, disordered expression at the transcription level may be crucial for excessive hormone production in adrenocortical tumors. Nuclear receptors SF-1 and COUP-TF/DAX-1 have been shown to activate and repress, respectively, the transcription of CYP17 gene in a mutually exclusive manner in Y-1 cells. Interestingly, the expression of COUP-TF and DAX-1 is significantly decreased in the cortisol-producing adenomas, in which CYP17 is overexpressed. Conversely, DAX-1 is highly expressed in deoxycorticosterone-producing adenomas, where CYP17 expression is almost absent. These expression profiles indicate the possibility that COUP-TF and DAX-1 play important roles in the transcriptional repression of CYP17 in adrenal tumors. To clarify the mechanisms of COUP-TF-mediated repression, we therefore screened for COUP-TF-interacting proteins using a yeast two-hybrid system from a cortisol-producing adenoma cDNA library. We then cloned a novel COUP-TF-interacting protein-1 (CIP-1), which interacts with COUP-TFI, COUP-TFII, and SF-1. Functionally, CIP-1 can act as a transcriptional co-repressor for COUP-TF repression activity. CIP-1 expression profiles parallel those of COUP-TFI in steroidogenic tissues, strongly suggesting that, together, COUP-TFI and CIP-1 play an important role in steroidogenesis.
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