The gene for human granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) is expressed in a tissue-specific as well as an activation-dependent manner. The interaction of nuclear proteins with the promoter region of the GM-CSF gene that is likely to be responsible for this pattern of GM-CSF expression was investigated. We show that nuclear proteins interact with DNA fragments from the GM-CSF promoter in a cell-specific manner. A region spanning two cytokine-specific sequences, cytokine 1 (CK-1, 5' GAGATTCCAC 3') and cytokine 2 (CK-2, 5' TCAGGTA 3') bound two nuclear proteins [nuclear factor (NF)-GMa and NF-GMb] from GM-CSF-expressing cells in gel retardation assays. NF-GMb was inducible with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and accompanied induction of GM-CSF message. NF-GMb was absent in cell lines not producing GM-CSF, some of which had other distinct binding proteins. NF-GMa and NF-GMb eluted from a heparin-Sepharose column at 0.3 and 0.6 M KCl, respectively. We hypothesize that the sequences CK-1 and CK-2 bind specific proteins and regulate GM-CSF transcription
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