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EMBO J. 1985 Dec 30;4(13B):3851-9.

Metal-dependent SV40 viruses containing inducible enhancers from the upstream region of metallothionein genes.


We have isolated SV40 recombinant viruses which are dependent on heavy metal ions for efficient propagation. They were obtained after-co-transfection of enhancerless SV40 DNA (the so-called enhancer trap) with sonicated DNA from the mouse metallothionein-I (mMT-I) or human metallothionein-IIA (hMT-IIA) upstream regions. To substitute for the SV40 enhancer, these viruses have incorporated a segment of the immediate upstream region of the metallothionein genes. Two recombinant viruses of the SVMT-I type carry segments of the mMT-I gene from positions -73 to -187 and -39 to -194 inverted with respect to their natural configuration. The overlapping segment contains two of the four metal-responsive elements involved in the induction of the mMT-I gene by heavy metal ions. The SVMT-II recombinant virus contains a segment of the hMT-IIA gene from position -39 to -366 which harbors the metal- and hormone-responsive elements of the hMT-IIA gene. Insertion of the mMT-I segment downstream of a rabbit beta-globin test gene enhances beta-globin transcription upon metal ion stimulation. This shows that the immediate upstream region of the mouse metalliothionein-I gene, when detached from its TATA box, can act as an inducible enhancer. It may be generally true that the enhancer/promoters of inducible genes are composed of several regulatory sequence elements which are interspersed with constitutive elements. The number and spatial arrangement of these elements probably determines the basal versus induced level of expression.

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