The promoters of IL-2 and IL-4 genes contain multiple binding sites for octamer factors. In peripheral T lymphocytes and several T cell lines, both the ubiquitous Oct factor Oct-1 and the lymphocyte-specific factor Oct-2 are expressed and bind to the IL-2 and IL-4 promoters. Prominent octamer binding sites of IL-2 and IL-4 promoters are their upstream promoter sites (UPS) which share 14 identical nucleotides. Multiple copies of the IL-2 and IL-4 UPS act as inducible enhancers in T cells, and their induction is inhibited by the immunosuppressant cyclosporin A (CsA). Closely linked to the octamer site, the IL-2 UPS contains a non-canonical AP-1 binding (TRE) site, and mutation in either site to a non-functional factor binding site impairs the induction of the IL-2 promoter. The binding of AP-1 and octamer factors to the IL-2 UPS DNA overlaps, and the tight association and functional cooperation of octamer with AP-1 factors is of crucial importance for the inducible IL-2 UPS activity. Introduction of five or ten spacer nucleotides between both IL-2 UPS sites results in a drastic reduction of inducible UPS activity, both in the loss of suppression by CsA and stimulation by the Ca(2+)-dependent phosphatase calcineurin. Within the IL-4 UPS the Oct and TRE-like motifs are separated by a binding site of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NF-AT). This site shares nine out of ten bp with an IL-2 NF-AT site. The strong binding of NF-ATp to the IL-4 UPS site suppresses the simultaneous binding of Oct factors to the IL-4 UPS. Because the two other Oct binding sites of IL-4 promoter show a similar sequence configuration, the binding of NF-AT seems to prevent the simultaneous binding of Oct factors to the IL-4 promoter. By contrast, both classes of factors bind simultaneously to the IL-2 promoter, and their tight association with AP-1 enhances the IL-2 promoter activity.

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