In Vivo Identification of a 107-Base Pair Promoter Element Mediating Neuron-Specific Expression of Mouse Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone

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Abstract

To identify regions of the mouse GnRH (mGnRH) promoter that mediate tissue-specific gene expression, transgenic mice have been generated with fragments of mGnRH promoter fused to the luciferase reporter gene. In this manuscript, we examine transgenic mice, generated with −356/+28 bp and −249/+28 bp of the mGnRH gene. Both fragments of mGnRH promoter target ovarian expression of the luciferase transgene, but neuronal luciferase activity is detected only in the mice bearing the −356-bp fragment, suggesting that the DNA sequences essential for directing neuron-specific expression of the GnRH gene are located between −356 and −249 bp. Two consensus binding sites for Otx2 were identified in this promoter region and were confirmed to be functional. EMSAs demonstrated specific binding of Otx2 to the mGnRH promoter, and overexpression of Otx2 increased transcriptional activity of the mGnRH promoter in transient transfection studies. When both Otx2 binding sites were eliminated, overexpression of Otx2 had no effect. GnRH mRNA expression in immortalized GnRH-secreting cell lines was also found to correlate with Otx2 expression. In addition, transgenic mice, bearing the 356 fragment of the mGnRH gene in which the Otx2 binding sites were eliminated, have significantly lower luciferase activity in the neonatal brain compared with mice generated with intact Otx2 binding sites. Luciferase activity was, however, still present in the ovary. Our findings provide evidence that Otx2 may have a critical role in directing tissue-specific expression of the mGnRH gene to the neuron, but not the ovary.

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