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Analysis of the transcriptional activity of endogenous NFAT5 in primary cells using transgenic NFAT-luciferase reporter mice

Author(s): Morancho Beatriz | Minguillón Jordi | Molkentin Jeffery | López-Rodríguez Cristina | Aramburu Jose

Journal: BMC Molecular Biology
ISSN 1471-2199

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 13;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Abstract Background The transcription factor NFAT5/TonEBP regulates the response of mammalian cells to hypertonicity. However, little is known about the physiopathologic tonicity thresholds that trigger its transcriptional activity in primary cells. Wilkins et al. recently developed a transgenic mouse carrying a luciferase reporter (9xNFAT-Luc) driven by a cluster of NFAT sites, that was activated by calcineurin-dependent NFATc proteins. Since the NFAT site of this reporter was very similar to an optimal NFAT5 site, we tested whether this reporter could detect the activation of NFAT5 in transgenic cells. Results The 9xNFAT-Luc reporter was activated by hypertonicity in an NFAT5-dependent manner in different types of non-transformed transgenic cells: lymphocytes, macrophages and fibroblasts. Activation of this reporter by the phorbol ester PMA plus ionomycin was independent of NFAT5 and mediated by NFATc proteins. Transcriptional activation of NFAT5 in T lymphocytes was detected at hypertonic conditions of 360–380 mOsm/kg (isotonic conditions being 300 mOsm/kg) and strongly induced at 400 mOsm/kg. Such levels have been recorded in plasma in patients with osmoregulatory disorders and in mice deficient in aquaporins and vasopressin receptor. The hypertonicity threshold required to activate NFAT5 was higher in bone marrow-derived macrophages (430 mOsm/kg) and embryonic fibroblasts (480 mOsm/kg). Activation of the 9xNFAT-Luc reporter by hypertonicity in lymphocytes was insensitive to the ERK inhibitor PD98059, partially inhibited by the PI3-kinase inhibitor wortmannin (0.5 μM) and the PKA inhibitor H89, and substantially downregulated by p38 inhibitors (SB203580 and SB202190) and by inhibition of PI3-kinase-related kinases with 25 μM LY294002. Sensitivity of the reporter to FK506 varied among cell types and was greater in primary T cells than in fibroblasts and macrophages. Conclusion Our results indicate that NFAT5 is a sensitive responder to pathologic increases in extracellular tonicity in T lymphocytes. Activation of NFAT5 by hypertonicity in lymphocytes was mediated by a combination of signaling pathways that differed from those required in other cell types. We propose that the 9xNFAT-Luc transgenic mouse model might be useful to study the physiopathological regulation of both NFAT5 and NFATc factors in primary cells.
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