Autoregulation of the human N-myc oncogene is disrupted in amplified but not single-copy neuroblastoma cell lines

Louise E. Sivak, Kuei Fang Tai, Robin S. Smith, Patrick A. Dillon, Garrett M. Brodeur, William L. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Amplification of the N-myc gene is a significant adverse prognostic factor in neuroblastoma, a common childhood tumor. In non-transformed cells, myc expression is controlled through an autoregulatory circuit, through which elevated Myc protein levels lead to downregulation of myc transcription. The precise mechanism of myc gene autoregulation is unknown. Loss of c-myc autoregulation has been documented in transformed cells from a number of different lineages, but N-myc autoregulation has not yet been investigated. In neuroblastoma, the increased N-Myc protein produced by amplified tumors would be expected to silence N-myc transcription if the autoregulatory loop were intact. To determine whether N-myc autoregulation is operative in human neuroblastoma, and to localize cis-acting elements which mediate N-myc autosuppression, we transfected a series of N-myc 5' promoter constructs into a panel of human neuroblastoma cell lines carrying one or multiple copies of N-myc. The transfected promoter was equally active in single-copy and amplified lines. Significant promoter activity in the presence of abundant Myc protein in amplified neuroblastoma lines indicates that autoregulation is disabled in this subset of tumours. To investigate whether single-copy lines produce insufficient N-Myc resulted in diminution of activity of both the transfected promoter and the endogenous N-myc gene in single-copy, but not amplified lines, Using a series of 5' promoter-deletion minigenes, we localized a cis-acting element required for autoregulation close to the transcription start sites. While the precise mechanism of autosuppression remains unknown, we demonstrated that Myc is incapable of silencing the adenovirus major late promoter (AdMLP) in neuroblastoma cells, indicating that Myc suppression of its own promoter and the AdMLP involve distinct components. These studies provide the first systematic investigation of autoregulation in neuroblastoma, and indicate that single-copy neuroblastoma lines produce insufficient N-Myc protein to activate downstream effector(s) of autosuppression; the autoregulatory circuit is otherwise intact. Amplified lines, in contrast, have lost autoregulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1937-1946
Number of pages10
Issue number16
StatePublished - 1997


  • Autoregulation
  • N-myc promoter
  • Neuroblastoma


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