Silencing of the Gene for the α-Subunit of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin by the Embryonic Transcription Factor Oct-3/4

Document Type


Publication Date



CG is required for maintenance of the corpus luteum during pregnancy in higher primates. As CG is a heterodimeric molecule, some form of coordinated control must be maintained over the transcription of its two subunit genes. We recently found that expression of human CG beta-subunit (hCGbeta) in JAr human choriocarcinoma cells was almost completely silenced by the embryonic transcription factor Oct-3/4, which bound to a unique ACAATAATCA octameric sequence in the hCGbeta gene promoter. Here we report that Oct-3/4 is also a potent inhibitor of hCG alpha-subunit (hCGalpha) expression in JAr cells. Oct-3/4 reduced human GH reporter expression from the -170 hCGalpha promoter in either the presence or absence of cAMP by about 70% in transient cotransfection assays, but had no effect on expression from either the -148 hCGalpha or the -99 hCGalpha promoter. Unexpectedly, no Oct-3/ 4-binding site was identified within the -170 to -148 region of the hCGalpha promoter, although one was found around position -115 by both methylation interference footprinting and electrophoretic mobility shift assays. Site-directed mutagenesis of this binding site destroyed the affinity of the promoter for Oct-3/4, but did not affect repression of the promoter. Therefore, inhibition of hCGalpha gene transcription by Oct-3/4 appears not to involve direct binding of this factor to the site responsible for silencing. When stably transfected into JAr cells, Oct-3/4 reduced the amounts of both endogenous hCGalpha mRNA and protein by 70-80%. Oct-3/4 is therefore capable of silencing both hCGalpha and hCGbeta gene expression. We suggest that as the trophoblast begins to form, reduction of Oct-3/4 expression permits the coordinated onset of transcription from the hCGalpha and hCGbeta genes.