Imaging the localized protein interactions between Pit-1 and the CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α in the living pituitary cell nucleus

Richard N. Day, Ty C. Voss, John F. Enwright, Cynthia F. Booker, Ammasi Periasamy, Fred Schaufele

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The homeodomain protein Pit-1 cooperates with the basic-leucine zipper protein CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα) to control pituitary-specific prolactin gene transcription. We previously observed that C/EBPα was concentrated in regions of centromeric heterochromatin in pituitary GHFT1-5 cells and that coexpressed Pit-1 redistributed C/EBPα to the subnuclear sites occupied by Pit-1. Here, we used fluorescence resonance energy transfer microscopy to show that when C/EBPα was recruited by Pit-1, the average distance separating the fluorophores labeling the proteins was less than 7 nm. A mutation in the Pit-1 homeodomain, or truncation of the C/EBPα transactivation domain disrupted the redistribution of C/EBPα by Pit-1. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer analysis revealed that the mutant Pit-1 still associated with C/EBPα, and the truncated C/EBPα still associated with Pit-1, but these interactions were preferentially localized in regions of centromeric heterochromatin. In contrast, a truncation in C/EBPα that prevented DNA binding also blocked its association with Pit-1, suggesting that the binding of C/EBPα to DNA is a critical first step in specifying its association with Pit-1. These findings indicated that the protein domains that specify the interaction of Pit-1 and C/EBPα are separable from the protein domains that direct the positioning of the associated proteins within the nucleus. The intimate association of Pit-1 and C/EBPα at certain sites within the living cell nucleus could foster their combinatorial activities in the regulation of pituitary-specific gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-345
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology

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