We have compared the mechanisms of the transcriptional induction of c-fos in mouse epidermal cells JB6 (clone 30) by an extracellular burst of active oxygen of the type produced by inflammatory phagocytes to induction by serum and phorbol ester. All three inducers elicit a characteristic immediate early response of c-fos which is inhibited by the protein kinase inhibitor H7 but enhanced by the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide. Experiments with stable transfectants containing fos 5′ upstream regulatory sequences linked to an HSV-tk-chloramphenicol-acetyl-transferase reporter construct indicate that the joint dyad symmetry element-AP-1 motifs exert the most potent enhancer effect in response to active oxygen as well as serum. It is concluded that the different signal transduction pathways used by these inducers converge to the same 5′ regulatory sequences of c-fos.

In contrast to these common features only active oxygen induction of c-fos required the poly-ADP-ribosylation of chromosomal proteins. The inhibitors of ADP-ribose transferase benzamide and 3-amino-benzamide suppressed the elongation of the c-fos message and the de novo synthesis of nuclear factors, among them c-Fos and c-Jun, which bind to the fos-AP-1 motif in vitro only following stimulation with active oxygen. No active oxygen-induced change was observed in the protein complex which binds to an oligonucleotide containing the SIF and dyad symmetry element motifs in vitro. The presence of Fos and Jun proteins was detected in this complex. Only active oxygen, but not serum or phorbol ester, induces DNA breakage. We propose that poly-ADP-ribosylation is required because it participates in the repair of DNA breaks which interfere with transcription. We observed that Fos protein is weakly poly-ADP-ribosylated in response to active oxygen, but the functional role of this modification remains unclear.

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Supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Association of Cigarette Manufacturers and the Association for International Cancer Research.

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