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Genes Cells. 2006 Sep;11(9):1009-21.

Functional analysis of the sea urchin-derived arylsulfatase (Ars)-element in mammalian cells.

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Aminal Genome Research Unit, Division of Animal Science, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Ikenodai 2, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8602, Japan.


An insulator is a DNA sequence that has both enhancer-blocking activity, through its ability to modify the influence of neighboring cis-acting elements, and a barrier function that protects a transgene from being silenced by surrounding chromatin. Previously, we isolated and characterized a 582-bp-long element from the sea urchin arylsulfatase gene (Ars). This Ars-element was effective in sea urchin and Drosophila embryos and in plant cells. To investigate Ars-element activity in mammalian cells, we placed the element between the cytomegalovirus enhancer and a luciferase (luc) expression cassette. In contrast to controls lacking the Ars-element, NIH3T3 and 293T cells transfected with the element-containing construct displayed reduced luciferase activities. The Ars-element therefore acts as an enhancer-blocking element in mammalian cells. We assessed the barrier activity of the Ars-element using vectors in which a luc expression cassette was placed between two elements. Transfection experiments demonstrated that luc activity in these vectors was approximately ten-fold higher than in vectors lacking elements. Luc activities were well maintained even after 12 weeks in culture. Our observations demonstrate that the Ars-element has also a barrier activity. These results indicated that the Ars-element act as an insulator in mammalian cells.

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