UV-Induced Stabilization of c-fos and Other Short-Lived mRNAs


American Society for Microbiology


Irradiation of cells with short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC) changes the program of gene expression, in part within less than 15 min. As one of the immediate-early genes in response to UV, expression of the oncogene c-fos is upregulated. This immediate induction is regulated at the transcriptional level and is transient in character, due to the autocatalyzed shutoff of transcription and the rapid turnover of c-fos mRNA. In an experiment analyzing the kinetics of c-fos mRNA expression in murine fibroblasts irradiated with UVC, we found that, in addition to the initial transient induction, c-fos mRNA accumulated in a second wave starting at 4 to 5 h after irradiation, reaching a maximum at 8 h, and persisting for several more hours. It was accompanied by an increase in Fos protein synthesis. The second peak of c-fos RNA was caused by an UV dose-dependent increase in mRNA half-life from about 10 to 60 min. With similar kinetics, the mRNAs of other UV target genes (i.e., the Kin17 gene, c-jun, IκB, and c-myc) were stabilized (e.g., Kin17 RNA from 80 min to more than 8 h). The delayed response was not due to autocrine cytokine secretion with subsequent autostimulation of the secreting cells or to UV-induced growth factor receptor activation. Cells unable to repair UVC-induced DNA damage responded to lower doses of UVC with an even greater accumulation of c-fos and Kin17 mRNAs than repair-proficient wild-type cells, suggesting that a process in which a repair protein is involved regulates mRNA stability. Although resembling the induction of p53, a DNA damage-dependent increase in p53 was not a necessary intermediate in the stabilization reaction, since cells derived from p53 knockout mice showed the same pattern of c-fos and Kin17 mRNA accumulation as wild-type cells. The data indicate that the signal flow induced by UV radiation addresses not only protein stability (p53) and transcription but also RNA stability, a hitherto-unrecognized level of UV-induced regulation.

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