The progesterone receptor (PR) gene is activated by estrogen in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Although the human PR gene does not contain an estrogen response element (ERE), we have identified a putative activating protein-1 (AP-1) site at +90 in the PR gene that was hypersensitive to deoxyribonuclease I cleavage in genomic Southern analysis, bound purified Fos and Jun, formed a complex with Fos/Jun heterodimers present in MCF-7 nuclear extracts in gel mobility shift assays, and functioned as an estrogen-responsive enhancer in transient cotransfection assays. When the +90 AP-1 site was mutated in the context of the PR gene, estrogen responsiveness was significantly decreased. Purified estrogen receptor (ER) enhanced binding of Fos and Jun to the +90 AP-1 site and bound to an adjacent imperfect ERE half-site. Mutating this ERE half-site diminished the binding of ER, Fos, and Jun and decreased transcription. Chromatin immuno-precipitation assays demonstrated that the ER, Fos, and Jun were present at the +90 AP-1 site in the endogenous PR gene only after treatment of MCF-7 cells with estrogen. These studies suggest that the cooperative interaction of the ER with Fos and Jun proteins helps confer estrogen responsiveness to the endogenous PR gene.
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