Purpose: We previously demonstrated that 350 bp of the human rod cGMP phosphodiesterase beta-subunit (beta-PDE) gene promoter are sufficient to direct high levels of gene expression in human Y-79 retinoblastoma cells in vitro. In this study the cell specificity and expression pattern conferred by the short beta-PDE 5' flanking sequence in vivo were examined.
Methods: A construct containing the bacterial LacZ gene driven by a fragment of the beta-PDE 5' flanking region (-297 to +53) was used to generate transgenic mice. Gene expression was analyzed by measuring beta-galactosidase activity in tissue homogenates or visualizing enzymatic activity or protein production at a cellular level by in situ histochemistry or immunocytochemistry.
Results: Three independently derived transgenic lines were generated carrying the -297 to +53 beta-PDE 5' flanking region fragment. Within the retina, the reporter gene was specifically expressed in photoreceptors, consistent with the localization of endogenous beta-PDE. Significant expression of LacZ was not observed in other ocular or peripheral tissues.
Conclusions: Photoreceptor-specific reporter gene expression is driven in vivo by a 350-bp segment of the beta-PDE 5' flanking sequence. This study demonstrates the utility of the human beta-PDE promoter for directing the expression of foreign genes to photoreceptors and suggests that the -297 to +53 beta-PDE 5' flanking region fragment may have important implications for therapeutic gene delivery to the visual cells.