Heparin blocks the phorbol ester-induced progression of nontransformed cells through the G0/G1 phase (Wright, T.C., L.A. Pukac, J.J. Castellot, M.J. Karnovsky, R.A. Levine, H.-Y. Kim-Park, and J. Campisi. 1989. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 86: 3199-3203) or G1 to S phase (Reilly, C. F., M. S. Kindy, K. E. Brown, R. D. Rosenberg, and G. E Sonenshein. 1989. J. Biol. Chem. 264:6990-6995) of the cell cycle. Cell cycle arrest was associated with decreased levels of stage-specific mRNAs suggesting transcriptional regulation of cell growth. In the present report, we show that heparin selectively repressed TPA-inducible AP-1-mediated gene expression. Heparin-induced trans-repression was observed in primary vascular smooth muscle cells, as well as in the transformed HeLa cell line and in nondifferentiated F9 teratocarcinoma cells. Inhibition of AP-1-mediated trans-activation occurred with heparin and pentosan polysulfate but not with chondroitin sulfate A or C. Heparin-binding peptides or heparitinase I addition to nuclear lysates of heparin-treated cells allowed enhanced recovery of endogenous AP-1-specific DNA binding activity. We propose a model in which nuclear glycosaminoglycans play a trans-regulatory role in altering the patterns of inducible gene expression.

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