Background: The AP-1 family of transcription factors has been implicated in the control of the expression of many genes in response to environmental signals. Previous studies have provided temporal profiles for c-fos expression by taking measurements from many animals at several points in time, but these studies provide limited information about dynamic changes in expression. Here, we have devised a method of continuously measuring c-fos expression.
Results: A transgenic mouse line expressing the human c-fos promoter linked to the firefly luciferase reporter gene (fos/luc) was generated to continuously monitor c-fos gene expression. A second transgenic mouse line expressing luciferase under the control of the cytomegalovirus promoter (CMV/luc) served as a control. Luminescence originating from identifiable brain regions was imaged from fos/luc brain slice cultures. Expression of the fos/luc transgene accurately reflected transcriptional responses of the endogenous c-fos gene. Dynamic changes in fos/luc expression in suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) explant cultures were monitored continuously, and luminescence showed almost 24 hour rhythms lasting up to five circadian cycles. In contrast, bioluminescence monitored from CMV/luc SCN explant cultures was not rhythmic.
Conclusion: The fos/luc transgenic mouse will be useful for long-term, non-invasive monitoring of c-fos transcriptional responses to the changing cellular environment. Circadian rhythms in c-fos expression can be monitored non-invasively in real time from the SCN, clearly demonstrating that c-fos transcription is regulated by the circadian clock.