Background: Androgen regulation and prostate-specific expression of targeted genes in transgenic mice can be controlled by a small DNA fragment of the probasin (PB) promoter (-426 to +28 base pairs, bp). Although the small PB fragment was sufficient to direct prostate-specific expression, the low levels of transgene expression suggested that important upstream regulatory sequences were missing.
Methods: To enhance transgene expression, a large fragment of the PB promoter (LPB, -11,500 to +28 bp) was isolated, linked to the bacterial chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) gene, and microinjected into CD1 mouse oocytes to generate transgenic mouse lines.
Results: As shown by the immunohistochemical studies, CAT gene expression was restricted to the prostatic epithelial cells in a tissue-specific manner. High levels of CAT gene expression were observed in two of the six LPB-CAT transgenic lines. In Line 1, developmental regulation of LPB-CAT was detected early, from 1 to 4 weeks of age, with the activity of CAT increasing from 3 to 40,936 dpm/min/mg protein. Upon sexual maturation and elevated serum androgen levels (7 weeks of age), a further 18-fold rise in CAT activity occurred. Hormone ablation by castration in mature mice dramatically reduced transgene expression, whereas treatment with androgens returned LPB-CAT expression to precastration levels. In contrast, treatment with glucocorticoids had no significant effect on CAT gene expression. Zinc treatment of the castrated animals also increased LPB-CAT expression three- to four-fold in two prostatic lobes.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that important regulatory DNA sequences located in the LPB fragment contribute to tissue-specific expression and greatly increase levels of transgene expression induced by androgens and zinc.