Transcriptional regulation of the chicken CRHR2 gene by pituitary transcription factors Academic Article uri icon


  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is known to act as a potent thyrotropin-releasing factor in non-mammalian species such as chicken and bullfrog. This interaction is mediated by type 2 CRH receptors (CRHR2) expressed by the thyrotropes in the pituitary gland. However, the response elements (REs) and their corresponding transcription factors (TFs) that control CRHR2 expression in thyrotropes are not known. Since thyrotrope-specific expression of the β-subunit of thyrotropin is synergistically stimulated by the co-expression of POU1F1 and GATA2, we hypothesised that in non-mammalian vertebrates like chicken, CRHR2 expression is controlled by the same TFs and that their REs are present in the chicken CRHR2 gene promoter. In situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry suggest that chicken thyrotropes, like those of mammals, express the mRNAs for the TFs GATA2, POU1F1 and PITX1, but not NR5A1. Using luciferase reporter assays, we show that both GATA2 and PITX1 can activate the promoter of CRHR2, but PITX1 requires a functional GATA2 RE to be present. POU1F1 alone did not affect promoter activity, but synergistically increased the effect of GATA2. Promoter deletion analysis and mutagenesis showed that essential GATA2 and PITX1 REs are located between 116 and 198 bp upstream of the start codon. These REs are highly conserved in non-mammalian species. Additionally, NR5A1 (steroidogenic factor 1) suppressed both GATA2- and PITX1-induced promoter activity and may therefore play a role in restricting CRHR2 expression in gonadotropes. We conclude that the expression of CRHR2 in chicken thyrotropes is stimulated by GATA2 with interactions with POU1F1 and PITX1, in the absence of NR5A1.

publication date

  • 2019