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Research Article

Elevated levels of SREBP-2 and cholesterol synthesis in livers of mice homozygous for a targeted disruption of the SREBP-1 gene.

H Shimano, I Shimomura, R E Hammer, J Herz, J L Goldstein, M S Brown and J D Horton

Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75235, USA.

Published October 15, 1997

The synthesis of cholesterol and its uptake from plasma LDL are regulated by two membrane-bound transcription factors, designated sterol regulatory element binding protein-1 and -2 (SREBP-1 and SREBP-2). Here, we used the technique of homologous recombination to generate mice with disruptions in the gene encoding the two isoforms of SREBP-1, termed SREBP-1a and SREBP-1c. Heterozygous gene-disrupted mice were phenotypically normal, but 50- 85% of the homozygous (-/-) mice died in utero at embryonic day 11. The surviving -/- mice appeared normal at birth and throughout life. Their livers expressed no functional SREBP-1. There was a 1.5-fold upregulation of SREBP-2 at the level of mRNA and a two- to threefold increase in the amount of mature SREBP-2 in liver nuclei. Previous studies showed that SREBP-2 is much more potent than SREBP-1c, the predominant hepatic isoform of SREBP-1, in activating transcription of genes encoding enzymes of cholesterol synthesis. Consistent with this observation, the SREBP-1 -/- animals manifested elevated levels of mRNAs for 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A synthase and reductase, farnesyl diphosphate synthase, and squalene synthase. Cholesterol synthesis, as measured by the incorporation of [3H]water, was elevated threefold in livers of the -/- mice, and hepatic cholesterol content was increased by 50%. Fatty acid synthesis was decreased in livers of the -/- mice. The amount of white adipose tissue was not significantly decreased, and the levels of mRNAs for lipogenic enzymes, adipocyte lipid binding protein, lipoprotein lipase, and leptin were normal in the -/- mice. We conclude from these studies that SREBP-2 can replace SREBP-1 in regulating cholesterol synthesis in livers of mice and that the higher potency of SREBP-2 relative to SREBP-1c leads to excessive hepatic cholesterol synthesis in these animals.

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