We have analyzed the hormonal basis for the acceleration of differentiation by dexamethasone and insulin in the stable adipogenic cell line TA1. These cells, which were derived from 5-azacytidine-treated 10T1/2 mouse embryo fibroblasts, undergo differentiation in culture after reaching confluence. The ensuing morphological changes are accompanied by widespread alterations in the pattern of protein synthesis and the increased accumulation of specific mRNAs. Using cDNA clones corresponding to mRNAs that are induced during adipogenesis, we find that dexamethasone elicits the precocious accumulation of differentiation-specific gene products. This effect appears to be mediated by the glucocorticoid receptor, yet unlike standard steroid inductions, most of the RNAs reach the same maximal levels in the absence of dexamethasone. Glucocorticoids thus may increase the expression of a regulatory factor required for activating the entire set of differentiation-dependent genes. We also describe a gene whose transcription is not only activated during adipogenesis but is also specifically inducible by dexamethasone in the mature adipocyte. Moreover, the glucocorticoid responsiveness of this gene in differentiated cells appears to be dependent on its prior developmental activation.

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