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J Biol Chem. 1996 Mar 22;271(12):7095-103.

Expression of the smooth muscle cell calponin gene marks the early cardiac and smooth muscle cell lineages during mouse embryogenesis.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.

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  • J Biol Chem 1997 Oct 24;272(43):27492.


Although several genes are considered markers for vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) differentiation, few have been rigorously tested for SMC specificity in mammals, particularly during development where considerable overlap exists between different muscle gene programs. Here we describe the temporospatial expression pattern of the SMC calponin gene (formerly h1 or basic calponin) during mouse embryogenesis and in adult mouse tissues and cell lines. Whereas SMC calponin mRNA expression is restricted exclusively to SMCs in adult tissues, during early embryogenesis, SMC calponin transcripts are expressed throughout the developing cardiac tube as well as in differentiating SMCs. Transcription of the SMC calponin gene initiates at two closely juxtaposed sites in the absence of a consensus TATAA or initiator element. Transient transfection assays in cultured SMC demonstrated that high level SMC calponin promoter activity required no more than 549 nucleotides of 5 sequence. In contrast to the strict cell type-specificity of SMC calponin mRNA expression, the SMC calponin promoter showed activity in several cell lines that do not express the endogenous SMC calponin gene. These results demonstrate that SMC calponin responds to cardiac and smooth muscle gene regulatory programs and suggest that the cardiac and smooth muscle cell lineages may share a common gene regulatory program early in embryogenesis, which diverges as the heart matures. The finding that the isolated SMC calponin promoter is active in a wider range of cells than the endogenous SMC calponin gene also suggests that long-range repression or higher order regulatory mechanism(s) are involved in cell-specific regulation of SMC calponin expression.

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