Functional activity of hepatocyte nuclear factor-1 is specifically decreased in amino acid-limited hepatoma cells

Norman W. Marten, Chin Hui Hsiang, Lisa Yu, Nicholas Stollenwerk, Daniel S. Straus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Limitation of cultured rat hepatoma cells for an essential amino acid results in a specific decrease in expression of several genes that are preferentially expressed in the liver, including the serum albumin and transthyretin genes. In the work presented here, we examined whether the coordinate repression of these genes is caused by decreased activity of one or more of the liver-enriched transcription factors, hepatocyte nuclear factor-1 (HNF-1), HNF-3, HNF-4 or C/EBP. To address this question, HepG2 human hepatoma cells were transiently transfected with luciferase reporter constructs containing multiple copies of individual transcription factor binding sites. Limitation for an essential amino acid resulted in specific repression of a construct in which luciferase expression was directed by HNF-1. A single HNF-1 binding site located adjacent to the TATA box plays a major role in transcription directed by the serum albumin promoter in transient transfection assays. Amino acid limitation of cells transfected with an albumin promoter/luciferase reporter construct resulted in specific repression of promoter activity. In addition, bacterial methylation or site-directed mutagenesis of the HNF-1 binding site in the albumin proximal promoter region eliminated the regulation of an albumin promoter-luciferase reporter construct under conditions of amino acid limitation. These results demonstrated that the HNF-1 binding site played a major role in regulation of the albumin promoter by amino acid availability. Deletion analysis of the albumin promoter confirmed regulation through the HNF-1 binding site and also identified a second amino acid regulatory element in the upstream region of the albumin promoter, which has been shown previously to contain a functional binding site for HNF-3. The repression of albumin promoter and HNF-1 reporter constructs in amino acid-limited cells occurred without a change in the DNA binding activity of HNF-1. Moreover, HNF-3 DNA binding activity was also not decreased in amino acid-limited cells. These results suggest that the regulation of transcription by amino acids occurs at the level of transcriptional activation by HNF-1 and HNF-3, rather than by alteration of the DNA binding activity of either factor. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-174
Number of pages15
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Gene Structure and Expression
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Oct 28 1999


  • Amino acid
  • Hepatocyte nuclear factor-1
  • Serum albumin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biophysics


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