Differential expression of the human genes coding for the alpha and beta polypeptides of the human C component C4b binding protein (C4BP) modulates the levels of C4BP molecules containing C4BP beta polypeptides, providing a mechanism to avoid the potential harmful effects of elevated concentrations of C4BP beta in plasma. To understand how the expression of the C4BPB gene is controlled, we have examined, in the major promoter of the human C4BP B gene, potential regulatory elements. A region from nucleotide -126 to +25 was able to drive high expression of a reporter gene in the human hepatoma cell line HepG2. A small subfragment of this region (from -126 to -90) is responsible for more than 90% of the promoter activity. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays revealed that transcription factors of the hepatocyte nuclear factor-3 (HNF-3) and nuclear factor-I (NFI/CTF) families were able to bind to this region in a sequence-specific manner. We have characterized binding sites for these transcription factors and determined their relative contribution to the activity of the C4BPB promoter. The results suggest that cooperative interaction between HNF-3 and NF-I/CTF is required to obtain a full C4BPB promoter activity. Comparison of the structures of the C4BPA and C4BPB promoters reveals significant differences that could explain the differential transcription of the C4BP alpha and C4BP beta polypeptides during the acute phase response.

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