Upstream stimulating factors: highly versatile stress-responsive transcription factors


*Address correspondence to Marie-Dominique Galibert,


Upstream stimulating factors (USF), USF-1 and USF-2, are members of the eucaryotic evolutionary conserved basic-Helix-Loop-Helix-Leucine Zipper transcription factor family. They interact with high affinity to cognate E-box regulatory elements (CANNTG), which are largely represented across the whole genome in eucaryotes. The ubiquitously expressed USF-transcription factors participate in distinct transcriptional processes, mediating recruitment of chromatin remodelling enzymes and interacting with co-activators and members of the transcription pre-initiation complex. Results obtained from both cell lines and knock-out mice indicates that USF factors are key regulators of a wide number of gene regulation networks, including the stress and immune responses, cell cycle and proliferation, lipid and glucid metabolism, and in melanocytes USF-1 has been implicated as a key UV-activated regulator of genes associated with pigmentation. This review will focus on general characteristics of the USF-transcription factors and their place in some regulatory networks.