GATA factors and androgen receptor collaborate to transcriptionally activate the Rhox5 homeobox gene in Sertoli cells
How Sertoli-specific expression is initiated is poorly understood. Here, we address this issue using the proximal promoter (Pp) from the Rhox5 homeobox gene. Its Sertoli cell-specific expression is achieved, in part, through a negative regulatory element that inhibits Pp transcription in non-Sertoli cell lines. Complementing this negative regulation is positive regulation conferred by four androgen-response elements (AREs) that interact with the androgen receptor (AR), a nuclear hormone receptor expressed at high levels in Sertoli cells. A third control mechanism is provided by a consensus GATA-binding site that is crucial for Pp transcription both in vitro and in vivo. Several lines of evidence suggested that GATA factors and AR act cooperatively to activate Pp transcription: (i) the GATA-binding site crucial for Pp transcription is in close proximity to two of the AREs, (ii) GATA and AR form a complex with the Pp in vitro, (iii) overexpression of GATA factors rescued expression from mutant Pp constructs harboring defective AREs, and (iv) incubation of a Sertoli cell line with testosterone triggered corecruitment of AR and GATA4 to the Pp. Collectively, our results suggest that the Rhox5 gene achieves Sertoli cell-specific transcription using a combinatorial strategy involving negative and cooperative positive regulation.