The transcription factor Sp1 modulates RNA polymerase III gene transcription by controlling BRF1 and GTF3C2 expression in human cells

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  • Authors:
  • Paul Shore
  • Fiexa Peng
  • Ying Zhou
  • Yun Wei
  • Wensheng Deng


Specificity protein 1 (Sp1) is an important transcription factor implicated in numerous cellular processes. However, whether Sp1 is involved in the regulation of RNA polymerase III (Pol III)-directed gene transcription in human cells remains unknown. Here, we first show that filamin A (FLNA) represses Sp1 expression as well as expression of TFIIB-related factor 1 (BRF1) and general transcription factor III C subunit 2 (GTF3C2) in HeLa, 293T, and SaOS2 cell lines stably expressing FLNA-silencing shRNAs. Both BRF1 promoter 4 (BRF1P4) and GTF3C2 promoter 2 (GTF3C2P2) contain putative Sp1-binding sites, suggesting that Sp1 affects Pol III gene transcription by regulating BRF1 and GTF3C2 expression. We demonstrate that Sp1 knockdown inhibits Pol III gene transcription, BRF1 and GTF3C2 expression, and the proliferation of 293T and HeLa cells, whereas Sp1 overexpression enhances these activities. We obtained a comparable result in a cell line in which both FLNA and Sp1 were depleted. These results indicate that Sp1 is involved in the regulation of Pol III gene transcription independently of FLNA expression. Reporter gene assays showed that alteration of Sp1 expression affects BRF1P4 and GTF3C2P2 activation, suggesting that Sp1 modulates Pol III–mediated gene transcription by controlling BRF1 and GTF3C2 gene expression. Further analysis revealed that Sp1 interacts with and thereby promotes the occupancies of TATA box–binding protein, TFIIAα, and p300 at both BRF1P4 and GTF3C2P2. These findings indicate that Sp1 controls Pol III–directed transcription and shed light on how Sp1 regulates cancer cell proliferation.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdoi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.011555
Pages (from-to)4617-4630
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
Early online date1 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020

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