The glycolytic enzyme glucokinase plays a primary role in the glucose-responsive secretion of insulin, and defects of this enzyme can cause NIDDM. As a step toward understanding the molecular basis of glucokinase (GK) gene regulation, we assessed the structure and regulation of the human GK gene β-cell-type promoter. The results of reporter gene analyses using HIT-T15 cells revealed that the gene promoter was comprised of multiple cis-acting elements, including two primarily important cis-motifs: a palindrome structure, hPal-1, and the insulin gene cis-motif A element-like hUPE3. While both elements were bound specifically by nuclear proteins, it was the homeodomain-containing transcription factor insulin promoter factor 1 (IPF1)/STF-1/PDX-1 that bound to the hUPE3 site: IPF1, when expressed in CHO-K1 cells, became bound to the hUPE3 site and activated transcription. An anti-IPF1 antiserum used in gel-mobility shift analysis supershifted the DNA protein complex formed with the hUPE3 probe and nuclear extracts from HIT-T15 cells, thus supporting the involvement of IPF1 in GK gene activation in HIT-T15 cells. In contrast to the insulin gene, however, neither the synergistic effect of the Pan1 expression on the IPF1-induced promoter activation nor the glucose responsiveness of the activity was observed for the GK gene promoter. These results revealed some conservative but unique features for the transcriptional regulation of the β-cell-specific genes in humans. Being implicated in insulin and GK gene regulations as a common transcription factor, IPF1/STF-1/PDX-1 is likely to play an essential role in maintaining normal β-cell functions.

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