Tetracycline-reversible silencing of eukaryotic promoters

Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Apr;15(4):1907-14. doi: 10.1128/MCB.15.4.1907.


A tetracycline-controlled transrepressor protein has been engineered to silence transcriptional activities of eukaryotic promoters that are stably integrated into the chromatin of human cells. By fusing the KRAB domain of human Kox1 to the Tet repressor derived from Tn10 of Escherichia coli, a tetracycline-controlled hybrid protein (TetR-KRAB) was generated and constitutively expressed in HeLa cells. The TetR-KRAB protein binds to tet operator (tetO) sequences in the absence but not in the presence of tetracycline. When TetR-KRAB bound to tetO sequences upstream of the immediate-early promoter-enhancer of human cytomegalovirus (CMV), the expression of a CMV-driven luciferase reporter construct (ptetO7-CMV-L) was repressed in transient transfection experiments. This silencing was found to operate on different promoters and from tetO sequences placed more than 3 kb from the transcriptional start site. We constructed a stable, doubly transfected cell line (TIS-10) carrying a chromosomally integrated ptetO7-CMV-L reporter construct and expressing the TetR-KRAB protein. Upon addition of tetracycline, luciferase expression was induced more than 50-fold above the baseline level, with half-maximal induction by 2 days. Furthermore, a protein of around 110 kDa was found to coimmunoprecipitate with the TetR-KRAB fusion protein. This protein might play a role as an adaptor protein mediating the silencing exerted by the TetR-KRAB protein. The TetR-KRAB silencing system should be useful as a genetic switch for regulating the expression of chromosomally integrated heterologous and endogenous genes present in mammalian genomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Carrier Proteins*
  • Cell Compartmentation
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Protein Binding
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Tetracycline / pharmacology*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tet O resistance protein, Bacteria
  • tetracycline resistance-encoding transposon repressor protein
  • Tetracycline