Two upstream regions of the human urokinase (uPA) gene regulate its transcription: the minimal promoter (MP) and the enhancer element. The activity of the minimal promoter is essential for basal uPA transcription in prostate adenocarcinoma PC3 cells. Binding of a phosphorylated Sp1 transcription factor is, in turn, essential for the activity of the MP. Here we report that the Jun kinase (JNK) pathway is required for the basal activity of the MP and for the expression of the endogenous uPA gene in PC3 cells and for activated transcription in LNCaP cells. On the other hand, the p42/p44 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway activates uPA gene expression through Sp1 phosphorylation in HeLa, LNCaP, and CCL39-derivative cells that do not typically express uPA in basal conditions. In HeLa cells the dominant-negative form of JNK interferes with the p42/p44 MAPK activation of the uPA-MP. The results suggest that the stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK)/JNK pathway plays an important role in the phosphorylation of Sp1, which, in turn, leads to basal or activated transcription from the uPAMP element.
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