Overexpression of the small-conductance calcium-activated K+ channel 3 (SK3) in transgenic mice compromises parturition, suggesting that the SK3 channel plays a role in pregnancy. In wild-type mouse myometrium, expression of SK3 transcript and protein is significantly reduced during pregnancy, but the mechanism(s) responsible for this attenuation of channel expression is unknown. The promoter region of the SK3-encoding mouse KCNN3 gene contains two binding sites for specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors, two of which are expressed in the uterus: Sp1, which enhances gene transcription in response to estrogen; and Sp3, which competes for the same binding motif as Sp1 and can repress gene expression. We investigated the hypothesis that Sp1 and Sp3 regulate SK3 channel expression during pregnancy. In mouse myometrium, Sp1 expression was reduced during late gestation, whereas Sp3 expression levels were constant throughout pregnancy. Using a reporter system, we found that Sp1 overexpression resulted in a significant increase in SK3 promoter activation and that Sp3 cotransfection reduced promoter activation to basal levels. These findings indicate that Sp3 outcompetes Sp1 to decrease SK3 transcription. To determine whether high levels of estrogen in vivo can affect the regulation of SK3 protein levels by Sp factors, ovariectomized mice were implanted with a 17β-estradiol or placebo pellet for 3 wk; estrogen-treated mice had reduced uterine SK3 protein expression compared with placebo-treated counterparts. In human myometrial cells overexpressing Sp1, estrogen treatment stimulated expression of the SK3 transcript. Overall, our findings indicate that Sp1 and Sp3 compete to regulate SK3 channel expression during pregnancy in response to stimulation by estrogen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E640-E646
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Preterm labor
  • Small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channel 3
  • Specificity protein 1 and 3
  • Uterus


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