Background: The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Kip1 is essential for proper control of cell cycle progression. The levels of p27Kip1 are regulated by several mechanisms including transcriptional and translational controls. In order to delineate the molecular details of these regulatory mechanisms it is important to identify the transcription initiation site within the p27Kip1 gene, thereby defining the promoter region of the gene and the 5'-untranslated region of the p27Kip1 mRNA. Although several previous studies have attempted to map p27Kip1 transcription start sites, the results vary widely for both the mouse and human genes. In addition, even though the mouse and human p27Kip1 gene sequences are very highly conserved, the reported start sites are notably different.
Results: In this report, using a method that identifies capped ends of mRNA molecules together with RNase protection assays, we demonstrate that p27Kip1 transcription is initiated predominantly from a single site which is conserved in the human and mouse genes. Initiation at this site produces a 5'-untranslated region of 472 nucleotides in the human p27Kip1 mRNA and 502 nucleotides in the mouse p27Kip1 mRNA. In addition, several minor transcription start sites were identified for both the mouse and human genes.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that the major transcription initiation sites in the mouse and human p27Kip1 genes are conserved and that the 5'-UTR of the p27Kip1 mRNA is much longer than generally believed. It will be important to consider these findings when designing experiments to identify elements that are involved in regulating the cellular levels of p27Kip1.