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J Biol Chem. 1991 Aug 25;266(24):15563-6.

Enhancer element at the 3'-flanking region controls transcriptional response to hypoxia in the human erythropoietin gene.

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  • 1Cardeza Foundation for Hematologic Research, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.


Erythropoietin gene expression is greatly stimulated under conditions of hypoxia. The activation of the erythropoietin gene appears regulated primarily at the level of gene transcription. To study cis-acting elements involved in the response to hypoxia a mini-gene was constructed by an internal deletion from exon II to V of the human erythropoietin gene and used in transient transfection assays in the erythropoietin producing Hep 3B cell line. It was initially found that hypoxia responsiveness was present in an erythropoietin fragment containing 400 base pairs (bp) of 5'-flanking and 600 bp of 3'-flanking regions. Deletion analysis showed no significant effect on the response to hypoxia when highly conserved regions of 5'-flanking sequence, exon and intron I, and exon V were removed from the mini-gene construct. However, removal of a fragment containing the 3' end of the gene and 3'-flanking sequences completely eliminated hypoxia responsiveness. Reinsertion of the above fragment upstream of the 5' end of the mini-gene restored the response to hypoxia. Further analysis using hybrid erythropoietin-chloramphenicol-acetyltransferase constructs allowed the localization of enhancer-like element(s) in the 3'-flanking region, approximately 120 bp downstream of the polyadenylation site of the human erythropoietin gene. Activation by these sequences were position- and orientation-independent and stimulated 15-fold transcription of the erythropoietin gene in response to hypoxia.

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