Retinoic acid and camp differentially regulate human chromogranin a promoter activity during differentiation of neuroblastoma cells

C. Gaetano, I. Manni, G. Bossi, G. Piaggio, S. Soddu, A. Farina, L. J. Helman, A. Sacchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We report the first evidence that differential transcriptional regulation of human chromogranin A (CHGA) gene expression occurs during in vitro treatment of tumorigenic neuroblastoma (NB) cells with retinoic acid (5 pM) and/or dibutyryl-cAMP (1 mM). The CHGA gene encodes a tissue specific protein restricted to cells of the diffuse neuroendocrine system, but also widely expressed among NB tumours. We previously reported that CHGA as well as other neuroendocrine markers are modulated during NB differentiation in vitro. To investigate, at the molecular level, the mechanisms leading to NB tumour cell differentiation during the treatment with biologically active compounds, we sequenced and functionally characterised 2169 bp of a genomic DNA clone encompassing the 5′ flanking region of the human CHGA gene. Computer-assisted analysis of the sequence revealed the presence of a cAMP responsive element at positions -56 to -49, and Sp1 binding sites at positions -181 to -176 and -216 to -210. Two novel 9 bp motifs, located at position -462 to -454 and -91 to -83 of the CHGA promoter were identified in the regulatory regions of two other neuroendocrine genes encoding for tyrosine hydroxylase and neuropeptide Y. In addition, in the first 1000 bp of the untranslated 5′ region, we found the presence of several putative DNA binding sites of bHLH molecules, a protein family regulating tissue specific differentiation. Transient transfection experiments of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) deletion constructs, showed the presence of an active promoter within the first 455 bp upstream from the start site. This region conferred tissue specific expression to a CAT reporter gene. In addition, the transcriptional activity of this fragment was modulated during the induction of differentiation of NB cells treated by retinoic acid and/or dibutyryl-cAMP. These observations provide preliminary data regarding CHGA transcriptional regulation in NB cells, and indicate that retinoic acid and cAMP activate distinct, apparently competitive, transcriptional pathways during NB cell differentiation. The molecular characterisation of the mechanisms regulating CHGA expression in tumour and normal neuroendocrine tissue could lead to the identification of novel molecules potentially relevant for future gene therapy of NB tumours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-452
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • chromaffin
  • chromogranin
  • differentiation
  • e-box
  • neuroblastoma
  • neuroendocrine
  • promoter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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