Transient expression of a mouse α-fetoprotein minigene: Deletion analyses of promoter function

R. W. Scott, S. M. Tilghman

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The constitutive transcription of a mouse α-fetoprotein (AFP) minigene was examined during the transient expression of AFP-simian virus 40-pBR322 recombinant DNAs introduced into HeLa cells by Ca3(PO4)2 precipitation. We tested three constructs, each of which contains the AFP minigene and pBR322 DNAs inserted in the late region of simian virus 40 and found that the relative efficiency of AFP gene expression was dependent on the arrangement of the three DNA elements in the vector. The transcripts begin at the authentic AFP cap site and are properly spliced and polyadenylated. To define a sequence domain in the 5' flanking region of the AFP gene required for constitutive expression, sequential 5' deletion mutants of the AFP minigene were constructed and introduced into HeLa cells. All AFP deletion mutants which retained at least the TATA motif located 30 base pairs upstream from the cap site were capable of directing accurate and efficient AFP transcription. However, when the TATA sequence was deleted, no accurately initiated AFP transcripts were detected. These results are identical to those obtained from in vitro transcription of truncated AFP 5' deletion mutant templates assayed in HeLa cell extracts. The rate of AFP transcription in vivo was unaffected by deletion of DNA upstream of the AFP TATA box but was greatly affected by the distance between the simian virus 40 control region and the 5' end of the gene. The absence of any promoter activity upstream of the TATA box in this assay system is in contrast to what has been reported for several other eucaryotic structural genes in a variety of in vivo systems. A sequence comparison between the 5' flanking region of the AFP gene and these genes suggested that the AFP gene lacks those structural elements found to be important for constitutive transcription in vivo. Either the AFP gene lacks upstream promoter function in the 5' flanking DNA contained within the minigene, or the use of a viral vector in a heterologous system precludes its identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1295-1309
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1983

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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