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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Nov 7;92(23):10624-8.

Identification of a DNA element determining synaptic expression of the mouse acetylcholine receptor delta-subunit gene.

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  • 1Unité de Recherche Associée, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UAD 1284, Département des Biotechnologies, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


mRNAs for acetylcholine receptor genes are highly concentrated in the endplate region of adult skeletal muscle largely as a result of a transcription restricted to the subneural nuclei. To identify the regulatory elements involved, we employed a DNA injection of a plasmid containing a fragment of the acetylcholine receptor delta-subunit gene promoter (positions -839 to +45) linked to the reporter gene lacZ with a nuclear localization signal. Injection of the wild-type construct into mouse leg muscles yielded preferential expression of the reporter gene in the synaptic region. Analysis of various mutant promoters resulted in the identification of a DNA element (positions -60 to -49), referred to as the N box, that plays a critical role in subneural expression. Disruption of this 12-bp element in the context of a mouse delta-subunit promoter from positions -839 to +45 gives widespread expression of the reporter gene throughout the entire muscle fiber, indicating that this element is a silencer that represses delta-subunit gene transcription in extrajunctional areas. On the other hand, this element inserted upstream of a heterologous basal promoter preferentially enhances expression in the endplate region. This element therefore regulates the restricted expression of the delta-subunit gene both as an enhancer at the endplate level and as a silencer in extrajunctional areas. Furthermore, gel-shift experiments with mouse muscle extracts reveal an activity that specifically binds the 6-bp sequence TTCCGG of this element, suggesting that a transcription factor(s) controls the expression of the delta-subunit gene via this element.

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