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Hum Gene Ther. 2001 Sep 20;12(14):1731-40.

A high-efficiency synthetic promoter that drives transgene expression selectively in noradrenergic neurons.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


Gene promoter systems that drive high-level, long-term, and cell-specific transgene expression are of great interest because of their potential utility for gene therapy. To generate an efficient promoter system specific for noradrenergic (NA) neurons, we multimerized an NA-specific cis-regulatory element (PRS2) identified in the human dopamine beta-hydroxylase (hDBH) promoter, and combined it with a minimal promoter (containing a TATA box and transcription start site). Forms of this synthetic promoter that contain 8 or more copies of PRS2 were >50 times more effective than the 1.15-kb hDBH promoter at driving reporter gene expression in cell lines originated from NA neurons. Neither the synthetic promoter nor the 1.15-kb hDBH promoter drove reporter gene expression in nonneuronal cells. Microinjections of an adenoviral vector containing the synthetic promoter directly into rat brain caused more strict NA-specific reporter gene expression than that caused by a vector containing the 1.15-kb hDBH promoter when the targeted region contained large numbers of NA neurons (locus coeruleus). Furthermore, the vector containing the synthetic promoter caused less nonspecific ("leaky") reporter gene expression than that caused by the vector containing the 1.15-kb hDBH promoter when the targeted region was devoid of NA neurons (cerebellum, dentate gyrus). Together, these studies provide in vitro and in vivo evidence that this novel synthetic promoter can target transgene expression to NA neurons even more efficiently and selectively than the naturally occurring, 1.15-kb hDBH promoter.

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