Myelin, a multilamellar structure extended from oligodendrocytes or Schwann cells, plays a critical role in maintenance of neuronal function, and damage or loss of myelin causes demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. For precise alignment of the myelin sheath, there is a requirement for expression of galactosylceramide (GalCer), a major glycosphingolipid in myelin. Synthesis of GalCer is strictly limited in oligodendrocytes in a developmental stage-specific manner. Ceramide galactosyltransferase (CGT), a key enzyme for biosynthesis of GalCer, exhibits restricted expression in oligodendrocytes but the mechanism is poorly understood. Based on our assumption that particular oligodendrocyte-lineagespecific transcription factors regulate CGT expression, we co-expressed a series of candidate transcription factors with the human CGT promoter-driving luciferase expression in oligodendroglioma cells to measure the promoter activity. We found that Nkx2.2 strongly activated the CGT promoter. In addition, we identified a novel repressive DNA element in the first intron of CGT and OLIG2, an oligodendrocyte-specific transcription factor, as a binding protein of this element. Moreover, overexpression of OLIG2 completely canceled the activating effect of Nkx2.2 on CGT promoter activity. Expression of CGT mRNA was also upregulated by Nkx2.2, but this upregulation was cancelled by co-expression of OLIG2 with Nkx2.2. Our study suggests that CGT expression is controlled by balanced expression of the negative modulator OLIG2 and positive regulator Nkx2.2, providing new insights into how expression of GalCer is tightly regulated in cell-type- and stage-specific manners.
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