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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Upstream Stimulating Factors 1 and 2 Enhance Transcription from the Placenta-Specific Promoter 1.1 of the Bovine Cyp19 Gene

Rainer Fürbass1*, Wolfgang Tomek2 and Jens Vanselow1

Author Affiliations

1 Research Unit Molecular Biology, Research Institute for the Biology of Farm Animals (FBN), Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2, 18196 Dummerstorf, Germany

2 Research Unit Reproductive Biology, Research Institute for the Biology of Farm Animals (FBN), Wilhelm-Stahl-Allee 2, 18196 Dummerstorf, Germany

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BMC Molecular Biology 2010, 11:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2199-11-5

Published: 18 January 2010



Placenta-derived oestrogens have an impact on the growth and differentiation of the trophoblast, and are involved in processes initiating and facilitating birth. The enzyme that converts androgens into oestrogens, aromatase cytochrome P450 (P450arom), is encoded by the Cyp19 gene. In the placenta of the cow, expression of Cyp19 relies on promoter 1.1 (P1.1). Our recent studies of P1.1 in vitro and in a human trophoblast cell line (Jeg3) revealed that interactions of placental nuclear protein(s) with the E-box element at position -340 are required for full promoter activity. The aim of this work was to identify and characterise the placental E-box (-340)-binding protein(s) (E-BP) as a step towards understanding how the expression of Cyp19 is regulated in the bovine placenta.


The significance of the E-box was confirmed in cultured primary bovine trophoblasts. We enriched the E-BP from placental nuclear extracts using DNA-affinity Dynabeads and showed by Western blot analysis and supershift EMSA experiments that the E-BP is composed of the transcription factors upstream stimulating factor (USF) 1 and USF2. Depletion of the USFs by RNAi and expression of a dominant-negative USF mutant, were both associated with a significant decrease in P1.1-dependent reporter gene expression. Furthermore, scatter plot analysis of P1.1 activity vs. USF binding to the E-box revealed a strong positive correlation between the two parameters.


From these results we conclude that USF1 and USF2 are activators of the bovine placenta-specific promoter P1.1 and thus act in the opposite mode as in the case of the non-orthologous human placenta-specific promoter.