The human mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) promoter contains a DNA sequence binding the repressor element 1 silencing transcription factor (REST) that is implicated in transcriptional repression. We investigated whether insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), which affects various aspects of neuronal induction and maturation, regulates OPRM1 transcription in neuronal cells in the context of the potential influence of REST. A series of OPRM1-luciferase promoter/reporter constructs were transfected into two neuronal cell models, neuroblastoma-derived SH-SY5Y cells and PC12 cells. In the former, endogenous levels of human mu-opioid receptor (hMOPr) mRNA were evaluated by real-time PCR. IGF-I up-regulated OPRM1 transcription in: PC12 cells lacking REST, in SH-SY5Y cells transfected with constructs deficient in the REST DNA binding element, or when REST was down-regulated in retinoic acid-differentiated cells. IGF-I activates the signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 signaling pathway and this transcription factor, binding to the signal transducer and activator of transcription-1/3 DNA element located in the promoter, increases OPRM1 transcription. We propose that a reduction in REST is a critical switch enabling IGF-I to up-regulate hMOPr. These findings help clarify how hMOPr expression is regulated in neuronal cells.
J. Neurochem. (2008) 105, 2166–2178.