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Nucleic Acids Res. 1996 Dec 15;24(24):4902-9.

Variegated expression of a globin transgene correlates with chromatin accessibility but not methylation status.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Sydney, Australia.


There are now many mammalian examples in which single cell assays of transgene activity have revealed variegated patterns of expression. We have previously reported that transgenes in which globin regulatory elements drive the lacZ reporter gene exhibit variegated expression patterns in mouse erythrocytes, with transgene activity detectable in only a sub-population of circulating erythroid cells. In order to elucidate the molecular mechanism responsible for variegated expression in this system, we have compared the chromatin structure and methylation status of the transgene locus in expressing and non-expressing populations of erythrocytes. We find that there is a difference in the chromatin conformation of the transgene locus between the two states. Relative to active transgenes, transgene loci which have been silenced exhibit a reduced sensitivity to general digestion by DNase I, as well as a failure to establish a transgene-specific DNase I hypersensitive site, suggesting that silenced transgenes are situated within less accessible chromatin structures. Surprisingly, the restrictive chromatin structure observed at silenced transgene loci did not correlate with increased methylation, with transgenes from both active and inactive loci appearing largely unmethylated following analysis with methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes and by sequencing PCR products derived from bisulphite-converted genomic DNA.

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