The neurotensin gene is a downstream target for Ras activation

B. Mark Evers, Zhichao Zhou, Paul Celano, Jing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Ras regulates novel patterns of gone expression and the differentiation of various eukaryotic cell types. Stable transfection of Ha-ras into the human colon cancer line CaCo2 results in the morphologic differentiation to a small bowel phenotype. The purpose of our study was to determine whether the Ras regulatory pathway plays a role in the expression of the neurotensin gone (NT/N), a terminally differentiated endocrine product specifically localized in the gastrointestinal tract to the adult small bowel. We found that CaCo2- ras cells, but not parental CaCo2, express high levels of the human NT/N gene and, moreover, that this increase in gene expression is regulated at the level of transcription. Transfection experiments using NT/N-CAT mutation constructs identify the proximal 200 bp of NT/N flanking sequence as sufficient for maximal Ras-mediated NT/N reporter gone induction. Furthermore, a proximal AP-1/CRE motif is crucial for this Ras-mediated NT/N activation. Wild-type Ha-ras induces NT/N gene expression, albeit at lower levels than activated Ras; a dominant-negative Raf blocks this NT/N induction, suggesting that Raf lies downstream of Ras in this pathway. In addition, postconfluent cultures of CaCo2 cells, which are differentiated to a small bowel phenotype, express the NT/N gene by 6 d after reaching confluency; this increase of NT/N expression is associated with concomitant increases of cellular p21(ras) protein. We conclude that Ras (both wild-type and activated) enhances expression of the NT/N gene in the gut-derived CaCo2 cell line, suggesting an important role for the Ras signaling pathway in NT/N gene transcription. Our results underscore the possibility that tissue- specific genes (such as NT/N) expressed in distinct subpopulations of the gut may be subject to Ras regulation. Finally, we speculate that the NT/N gene and the CaCo2 and CaCo2-ras cell systems will provide unique models to further define the cellular mechanisms leading to mammalian intestinal differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2822-2830
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1995


  • CaCo2 cells
  • differentiation
  • endocrine gene expression
  • small bowel


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