Recently, we have shown that the p53 tumor suppressor gene product can inhibit expression of the bcl-2 gene. In this report, we explored the molecular basis for p53-mediated down-regulation of bcl-2 gene expression using a cotransfection approach involving p53 expression plasmids and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene constructs containing regions from the bcl-2 gene. When transfected into a p53-deficient human lung cancer cell line H358, reporter gene constructs containing only the promoter region of bcl-2 and upstream sequences were not suppressed by p53. Inclusion of bcl-2 gene sequences corresponding to the 5′ untranslated region in bcl-2/CAT constructs, however, resulted in p53-dependent down-regulation. A 195-base pair segment from the bcl-2 gene 5′ untranslated region was found to be capable of conferring p53-dependent repression on a heterologous expression plasmid containing CAT under the control of an SV40 immediate early-region promoter. This p53-negative response element functioned in an orientation-independent manner when placed either upstream or downstream of the SV40-CAT transcription unit. The results demonstrate the existence of a negative response element in the bcl-2 gene through which p53 may either directly or indirectly transcriptionally down-regulate expression of this gene involved in the regulation of programmed cell death.
Supported by National Cancer Institute Grant CA-60181 and by Grant DHP32C from the American Cancer Society. J. C. R. is a Scholar of the Leukemia Society of America.