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Dev Dyn. 1997 Mar;208(3):299-312.

Distal regulatory elements control MRF4 gene expression in early and late myogenic cell populations.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-1392, USA.


MRF4 is a muscle-specific transcription factor that belongs to a family of basic helix-loop-helix proteins known as the myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs). In vitro studies have shown that expression of the MRF4 gene is controlled by a proximal promoter element (-336 to +71) that binds the muscle-specific transcription factors MEF2 and myogenin to activate transcription. To examine further the regulatory elements necessary for endogenous MRF4 gene expression during development, transgenic mice were generated that contained either a proximal MRF4 promoter-LacZ reporter gene (-336 MRF4-nLacZ) or a MRF4-LacZ reporter gene containing 8.5 kb of 5' flanking sequence (-8500 MRF4-nLacZ). Characterization of individual transgenic mouse lines throughout development revealed that expression of both transgenes is restricted to skeletal muscle tissue. However, unlike previous in vitro data, the proximal promoter transgene exhibits only limited transcriptional activity at all developmental time points, whereas the -8500 MRF4-nLacZ lines fully recapitulate the later developmental expression patterns and exhibit transcription in myotomal cells during somitic differentiation. Tissue culture analysis of myogenic cells isolated from E12.5, E16.5, and adults confirmed that the -8500 MRF4-nLacZ transgene is expressed in greater than 90% of the myotubes for all myogenic populations. These results indicate that 8.5 kb of MRF4 5' flanking sequence contains all the regulatory elements necessary for late MRF4 expression and that at least some of these elements lie upstream of the -336 proximal promoter. It is also likely that distant upstream regulatory sequences control early somitic MRF4 expression. These findings, coupled with previous in vitro studies, suggest that the early and late developmental expression patterns of the MRF4 gene are controlled by distinct sets of regulatory elements.

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