Transcription factor accessibility and histone acetylation of the progesterone receptor gene differs between parental MCF-7 cells and a subline that has lost progesterone receptor expression

Xiaojie Xu, Fern E. Murdoch, Edward M. Curran, Wade V. Welshons, Michael K. Fritsch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


The human progesterone receptor (PgR) gene has a complex promoter that produces alternate mRNAs encoding the PgRA (94 kDa) and PgRB (120 kDa) protein isoforms. Expression of PgR is induced by estradiol (E2) in the breast, reproductive tract and many cell lines despite the lack of a classical estrogen responsive element (ERE) in the promoter regions. We employed chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) to analyze the sites of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and Sp1 occupancy of the PgR promoters in vivo. We also assessed the functional relevance of histone acetylation levels on the accessibility of transcription factors to the promoter and subsequent hormone-induced transcription. We utilized MCF-7 human breast cancer cells that express PgR in response to E2 and the MCF-7 derived C4 cell strain that has lost PgR expression as a model system. We found that promoter-wide levels of histone acetylation were not decreased in C4 cells, but that access was partially blocked for Sp1 and completely blocked for ERα. The basal level of histone acetylation at six localized regions of the promoter did show some differences between cell lines, but it did not correlate with transcription factor binding. Furthermore, we found only a modest and highly localized change in histone acetylation levels in response to E2 at only one of three sites of ERα binding in MCF-7 cells. This was at the B1 site at the distal 5′ end of the promoter. This site also showed a significant decrease in basal histone acetylation in C4 compared to MCF-7 cells. We speculate that the histone acetylation level at this site may be a marker for chromatin structure that affects the access of transcription factors to the whole promoter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-151
Number of pages9
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 17 2004



  • Breast cancer cells
  • Chromatin
  • ERα
  • Estrogen
  • Estrogen receptor
  • PgR
  • PgRA
  • PgRB
  • Progesterone receptor
  • Progesterone receptor A promoter
  • Progesterone receptor B promoter
  • Progesterone receptor, A isoform
  • Progesterone receptor, B isoform
  • Sp1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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