Transcription of the osteocalcin gene, which encodes a 10 kDa bone- specific protein, is controlled by modularly organized basal regulatory sequences and hormone-responsive enhancer elements. We have previously shown that in the ROS 17/2.8 rat osteosarcoma cell line, which continuously expresses the osteocalcin gene, key regulatory elements reside in two DNase I hypersensitive sites that are functionally correlated with transcriptional activity. We now report that a specific nucleosomal organization supports this constitutive expression in ROS 17/2.8 cells, and that chromatin remodeling directly correlates with the developmentally regulated transcriptional activation of the osteocalcin gene during differentiation of normal diploid rat osteoblasts. By combining DNase I, micrococcal nuclease, and specific restriction endonuclease digestion analysis, we observed that the presence of DNase I hypersensitive sites (-170 to -70 and -600 to -400) and a selective nucleosome positioning over the OC gene promoter are directly associated with developmental stage-specific transcriptional activation in bone-derived cells.
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