The MAF (proto-)oncogene family of basic-leucine zipper transcription factors plays crucial roles in the control of mammalian gene expression and development. Here we analyzed the regulation of the human MAFF gene, coding for a small MAF transcription factor, in uterine smooth muscle cells. We found that MAFF transcript levels are induced by proinflammatory cytokines in PHM1–31 myometrial cells. We observed an important induction by interleukin 1 beta (IL1B) and a weaker upregulation by tumor necrosis factor (TNF), whereas interleukin 6 (IL6) treatment had no effect. Time course experiments revealed a rapid induction of MAFF transcripts within 30 min following IL1B treatment. The presence of actinomycin D inhibited the upregulation, suggesting that regulation of MAFF mRNA levels occurs at the transcriptional level. We generated a MAFF-specific antiserum and determined that MAFF protein was also induced by TNF and IL1B in PHM1–31 cells. In contrast, it was particularly interesting that the transcript and protein levels of the highly homologous MAFG and MAFK genes are not modulated by these cytokines. Our results suggest a possible specific role for MAFF in proinflammatory cytokine-mediated control of myometrial gene expression and provide the first link between a small MAF transcription factor and the inflammatory response.
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