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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Apr 13;96(8):4627-32.

An intronic enhancer containing an N-box motif is required for synapse- and tissue-specific expression of the acetylcholinesterase gene in skeletal muscle fibers.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, ON K1H 8M5, Canada.


mRNAs encoding acetylcholinesterase (AChE; EC are highly concentrated within the postsynaptic sarcoplasm of adult skeletal muscle fibers, where their expression is markedly influenced by nerve-evoked electrical activity and trophic factors. To determine whether transcriptional regulatory mechanisms account for the synaptic accumulation of AChE transcripts at the mammalian neuromuscular synapse, we cloned a 5.3-kb DNA fragment that contained the 5' regulatory region of the rat AChE gene and generated several constructs in which AChE promoter fragments were placed upstream of the reporter gene lacZ and a nuclear localization signal (nls). Using a recently described transient expression assay system in intact skeletal muscle, we show that this AChE promoter fragment directs the synapse-specific expression of the reporter gene. Deletion analysis revealed that a 499-bp fragment located in the first intron of the AChE gene is essential for expression in muscle fibers. Further analysis showed that sequences contained within this intronic fragment were (i) functionally independent of position and orientation and (ii) inactive in hematopoietic cells. Disruption of an N-box motif located within this DNA fragment reduced by more than 80% the expression of the reporter gene in muscle fibers. In contrast, mutation of an adjacent CArG element had no effect on nlsLacZ expression. Taken together, these results indicate that a muscle-specific enhancer is present within the first intron of the AChE gene and that an intronic N-box is essential for the regulation of AChE along skeletal muscle fibers.

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