Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date





Volume 7, Issue 2

Inclusive Pages

Article number e29527


Amino-Acid-N-Acetyltransferase--genetics; Carbamoyl-Phosphate Synthase (Ammonia)--biosynthesis; Carbamoyl-Phosphate Synthase (Ammonia)--genetics; Gene Expression Regulation; Enzymologic; Transcription; Genetics


The urea cycle converts toxic ammonia to urea within the liver of mammals. At least 6 enzymes are required for ureagenesis, which correlates with dietary protein intake. The transcription of urea cycle genes is, at least in part, regulated by glucocorticoid and glucagon hormone signaling pathways. N-acetylglutamate synthase (NAGS) produces a unique cofactor, N-acetylglutamate (NAG), that is essential for the catalytic function of the first and rate-limiting enzyme of ureagenesis, carbamyl phosphate synthetase 1 (CPS1). However, despite the important role of NAGS in ammonia removal, little is known about the mechanisms of its regulation. We identified two regions of high conservation upstream of the translation start of the NAGS gene. Reporter assays confirmed that these regions represent promoter and enhancer and that the enhancer is tissue specific. Within the promoter, we identified multiple transcription start sites that differed between liver and small intestine. Several transcription factor binding motifs were conserved within the promoter and enhancer regions while a TATA-box motif was absent. DNA-protein pull-down assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed binding of Sp1 and CREB, but not C/EBP in the promoter and HNF-1 and NF-Y, but not SMAD3 or AP-2 in the enhancer. The functional importance of these motifs was demonstrated by decreased transcription of reporter constructs following mutagenesis of each motif. The presented data strongly suggest that Sp1, CREB, HNF-1, and NF-Y, that are known to be responsive to hormones and diet, regulate NAGS transcription. This provides molecular mechanism of regulation of ureagenesis in response to hormonal and dietary changes.


Reproduced with permission of PLoS ONE

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