We investigated transcriptional regulation of the rat tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene by muscarinic stimulation in human neuroblastoma SK-N-BE(2)M17 cells. Carbachol treatment increased the levels of intracellular Ca2+ and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) and enhanced transcription of the TH gene. The muscarinic receptor antagonist atropine completely abolished the carbachol effect on TH gene expression. When cells were loaded with 50 microM 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy) ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid/acetoxymethyl ester (BAPTA/AM) to chelate intracellular Ca2+, carbachol still raised intracellular IP3 level and enhanced TH gene expression. Transient transfection analysis of the 5' upstream region of TH gene revealed that the AP1 cis-acting element at -205 to -199 bp was responsible for carbachol stimulation. But carbachol did not enhance TH gene expression in protein kinase C (PKC)-activated or down-regulated cells that had been induced by 5-min or 24-h exposure to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), respectively. Thus, Ca(2+)-independent PKC may play a role in carbachol-induced TH gene expression. We demonstrated by gel retardation and competition assays that a DNA sequence containing the wild-type AP1 site formed the specific DNA-protein complex. However, treatment with carbachol or PMA did not change the amount of the specific DNA-protein complex. Our results indicate that stimulation of phospholipase C-linked muscarinic receptors leads to elevated TH gene expression via AP1-mediated enhancement in a PKC-dependent pathway.
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