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J Immunol. 1997 Feb 15;158(4):1734-41.

Non-killer cell-specific transcription factors silence the perforin promoter.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Miami School of Medicine, FL 33101, USA.


Perforin is a pore-forming killer protein exclusively expressed by cells functionally defined as cytolytic lymphocytes. Previous reporter gene investigations have indicated that the cell-type-specific expression of the perforin gene is determined by the promoter and upstream region but the respective cis- and trans-acting molecules remain to be identified. In this investigation, we differentially display DNA-protein interactions of perforin-positive vs perforin-negative cell types and functionally test their biological relevance. Our results provide molecular evidence for the transcriptional repression of the perforin gene in non-killer cells by two novel regulatory elements. One of the respective transcription factors that are exclusively expressed by non-killer cells appears to be an Ets family member. Thus, the development of cells expressing perforin, and perhaps cytolytic lymphocytes in general, may involve a shutdown of the genes for these proteins.

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