We have previously reported that a 19-base pair element of the 5'- flanking region of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) gene containing a sequence homology to a hypoxia-responsive enhancer (iNOS-HRE) mediates picolinic acid (PA)- or hypoxia-induced activation of the iNOS promoter in interferon-γ (IFN-γ) treated murine macrophages. The iron chelator desferrioxamine (DFX) induces the activity of the human erythropoietin enhancer in Hep3B cells. We have investigated the influence of DFX on the activation of the iNOS promoter and iNOS gene expression in ANA-1 macrophages. We have found that DFX induced DNA-binding activity to the hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) consensus sequence of the iNOS promoter and activated the iNOS-HRE in murine macrophages. These activities of DFX were associated with a synergistic induction of iNOS mRNA expression and iNOS transcription in IFN-γ-treated ANA-1 macrophages. Functional analysis of the 5'-flanking region of the iNOS gene demonstrated that IFN-γ plus DFX activated the full-length iNOS promoter and that the iNOS-HRE was required for DFX-induced iNOS transcriptional activity. We also investigated the role of iron metabolism in the DFX- or PA-dependent induction of HIF-1 activity and iNOS expression. We demonstrate that addition of iron sulfate completely abolished DFX or PA induction of HIF-1 binding and iNOS-HRE activation and abrogated IFN-γ plus either DFX- or PA-induced iNOS expression. These data establish that DFX is a co-stimulus for the transcriptional activation of the iNOS gene in IFN-γ-treated macrophages, and they provide evidence that the iNOS-HRE is required for the DFX-dependent activation of the iNOS promoter. Furthermore, our results indicate that the iNOS-HRE is a regulatory element of the iNOS promoter responsive to iron chelation.
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