TheSLC6A4VNTR genotype determines transcription factor binding and epigenetic variation of this gene in response to cocainein vitro

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We demonstrated that the genotype of the variable number tandem repeats (VNTRs) in the linked polymorphic region (LPR) of the 5′ promoter and in the intron 2 (Stin2) transcriptional regulatory domains of the serotonin transporter SLC6A4 gene determined its promoter interactions with transcription factors and co-activators in response to cocaine in the JAr cell line. The LPR variants contain 14 (short, s) or 16 (long, l) copies of a 22–23 bp repeat element, whereas the Stin2 VNTR exists as three variants containing 9, 10 or 12 copies of a 16–17 bp repeat. We observed a differential effect of cocaine on the association of the promoter with the transcription factor CTCF, which bound to both LPR alleles prior to cocaine exposure but only to the l-allele following exposure. Significantly, this differential effect of cocaine was correlated with the binding of the transcriptional regulator MeCP2 specifically to the s-allele and recruiting the histone deacetylase complex (HDAC). Concurrently, cocaine increased the association of positive histone marks over the SLC6A4 gene locus. At the Stin2 domain, we lost binding of the transcription factor YB-1, while CTCF remained bound. Our biochemical data are consistent with differential reporter gene activity directed by the individual or dual domains in response to cocaine in an Epstein–Barr virus-based episome model of stable transfections. These observations suggest that exposure of JAr cells to cocaine may result in differential binding of transcription factors and activators based on a specific genotype that might alter epigenetic parameters affecting gene expression after the initial challenge.

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