Analysis of regulatory elements of E-cadherin with reporter gene constructs in transgenic mouse embryos

Dev Dyn. 2003 Jun;227(2):238-45. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.10301.


Proper regulation of E-cadherin-mediated cell adhesion is important during early embryonic development and in organogenesis. In mice, E-cadherin is expressed from the fertilized egg onward and becomes down-regulated during gastrulation in mesoderm and its derivatives, but its expression is maintained in all epithelia. E-cadherin promoter analyses led to the identification of binding sites for two transcriptional repressors, Snail and SIP1, which are able to mediate down-regulation in vitro, but little is known about the regulatory elements that govern E-cadherin transcriptional activity in vivo. Here, we compared the developmentally regulated expression of a series of lacZ-reporter transgenes fused to different sequences of the murine E-cadherin gene between -6 kb, including the promoter, and +16 kb, covering one third of intron 2. Four different segments with distinct regulatory properties were identified. The promoter fragment from +0.1 to -1.5 kb remains inactive in most cases but occasionally induces ectopic expression in mesodermal tissues, although it contains binding sites for the repressors Snail and SIP1. This promoter fragment also lacks positive elements needed for the activation of transcription in ectoderm and endoderm. Sequences from -1.5 to -6 kb harbor regulatory elements for brain-specific expression and, in addition, insulator or silencer elements, because they are consistently inactive in the mesoderm. Only if sequences from +0.1 to +11 kb are combined with the promoter fragments is E-cadherin-specific transgene expression observed in endoderm and certain epithelia. Sequences between +11 and +16 kb contain cis-active elements that generally enhance transcription. Our analyses show that E-cadherin expression is governed by a complex interplay of multiple regulatory regions dispersed throughout large parts of the locus.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Lac Operon
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Cadherins