The class II transactivator is a major transcriptional factor acting on the promoters of MHC class II genes. Transcription of the CIITA gene is driven by four alternative promoters, which exhibit cell-type-specific activity. The CIITA promoter III (PIII) is constitutively active in B cells, whereas promoter IV (PIV) becomes activated upon interferon-gamma activation. The aim of this study was to investigate whether these two promoters exhibit a sequence variability like the MHC class II promoters do. We isolated PIII and PIV fragments from healthy individuals and rheumatoid arthritis patients and screened them for sequence polymorphisms. Single base pair substitutions within the CIITA PIV were found in 9% of the individuals analyzed. The majority of the substitutions were located upstream of the known cis-acting elements of the promoter. PIII was non-polymorphic. To evaluate the functional relevance of the detected polymorphism we cloned variable PIV upstream of the luciferase reporter gene. Such prepared constructs were transfected into monocytes, melanoma and HeLa cells, which were subsequently stimulated with interferon-gamma. The analysis of promoter activities did not reveal significant differences in all three cell types. We conclude that the level of CIITA expression does not vary within the population. Thus the differences in the level of MHC class II expression, which are observed between individuals, stem for the polymorphisms of the MHC class II promoters themselves.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel