In prepubertal rats, connexin 26 (GJB2) is expressed between adjacent columnar cells of the epididymis. At 28 days of age, when columnar cells differentiate into adult epithelial cell types, Gjb2 mRNA levels decrease to barely detectable levels. There is no information on the regulation of GJB2 in the epididymis. The present study characterized regulation of the Gjb2 gene promoter in the epididymis. A single transcription start site at position −3829 bp relative to the ATG was identified. Computational analysis revealed several TFAP2A, SP1, and KLF4 putative binding sites. A 1.5-kb fragment of the Gjb2 promoter was cloned into a vector containing a luciferase reporter gene. Transfection of the construct into immortalized rat caput epididymal (RCE-1) cells indicated that the promoter contained sufficient information to drive expression of the reporter gene. Deletion constructs showed that the basal activity of the promoter resides in the first −230 bp of the transcriptional start site. Two response elements necessary for GJB2 expression were identified: an overlapping TFAP2A/SP1 site (−136 to −126 bp) and an SP1 site (−50 bp). Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and electrophoretic mobility shift assays confirmed that SP1 and TFAP2A were bound to the promoter. ChIP analysis of chromatin from young and pubertal rats indicated that TFAP2A and SP1 binding decreased with age. SP1 and TFAP2A knockdown indicated that SP1 is necessary for Gjb2 expression. DNA methylation did not appear to be involved in the regulation of Gjb2 expression. Results indicate that SP1 and TFAP2A regulate Gjb2 promoter activity during epididymal differentiation in rat.
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Vol. 94 • No. 6