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Genes Immun. 2016 Sep;17(6):349-57. doi: 10.1038/gene.2016.31. Epub 2016 Jul 28.

Analysis of Ly49 gene transcripts in mature NK cells supports a role for the Pro1 element in gene activation, not gene expression.

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Cancer and Inflammation Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD, USA.
Basic Science Program, Leidos Biomedical Research Inc., Frederick National Lab, Frederick MD, USA.
Office of Science and Technology Resources, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.
National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD USA.


The variegated expression of murine Ly49 loci has been associated with the probabilistic behavior of an upstream promoter active in immature cells, the Pro1 element. However, recent data suggest that Pro1 may be active in mature natural killer (NK) cells and function as an enhancer element. To assess directly if Pro1 transcripts are present in mature Ly49-expressing NK cells, RNA-sequencing of the total transcript pool was performed on freshly isolated splenic NK cells sorted for expression of either Ly49G or Ly49I. No Pro1 transcripts were detected from the Ly49a, Ly49c or Ly49i genes in mature Ly49(+) NK cells that contained high levels of Pro2 transcripts. Low levels of Ly49g Pro1 transcripts were found in both Ly49G(+) and Ly49G(-) populations, consistent with the presence of a small population of mature NK cells undergoing Ly49g gene activation, as previously demonstrated by culture of splenic NK cells in interleukin-2. Ly49 gene reporter constructs containing Pro1 failed to show any enhancer activity of Pro1 on Pro2 in a mature Ly49-expressing cell line. Taken together, the results are consistent with Pro1 transcription having a role in gene activation in developing NK, and argue against a role for Pro1 in Ly49 gene transcription by mature NK cells.

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