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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 6, 1995; 92(12): 5371–5375.

Position-dependent variegation of globin transgene expression in mice.


Expression of genes in eukaryotes has commonly been analyzed in a whole tissue, and levels of expression have been interpreted as the result of equivalent rates of transcription in every cell. We have produced transgenic mouse lines that express beta-galactosidase under the control of globin promoters linked to the major tissue-specific regulatory element of the alpha-globin locus, which permits the analysis of transgene expression in individual red blood cells. We find that expression of the transgene within all mouse lines is heterocellular. Individual cells either do not express the transgene at all or express it at a level characteristic of that line. The number of beta-galactosidase-expressing cells varies greatly between different lines of transgenic mice at any defined stage of development, but within a transgenic line, individual mice have strikingly similar numbers of expressing cells. This suggests that the degree of heterocellular expression is determined by the site of integration, as is seen in position-effect variegation.

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