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Targeting expression to the mammary gland: intronic sequences can enhance the efficiency of gene expression in transgenic mice

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
JournalTransgenic Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1991


We are studying the tissue-specific expression of the sheep milk-whey protein gene, beta-lactoglobulin. We have used sequences derived from this gene to target the expression of biomedical proteins into milk with the intention to exploit this technology in transgenic sheep as a means of protein production. In the present study, a series of beta-lactoglobulin hybrid genes and beta-lactoglobulin minigenes were evaluated for expression in the mammary gland of transgenic mice. In particular, we have assessed whether there is a requirement for introns for efficient transgene expression in the mammary gland, since the coding sequences of many candidate proteins are available only as cDNAs. The results suggest that the inclusion of natural introns in constructs can enhance the efficiency of transgene expression. Thus, a hybrid construct comprising 4.3 kb of the immediate 5' flanking sequences of beta-lactoglobulin fused to a genomic minigene encoding human alpha-antitrypsin (alpha 1AT) was expressed much more efficiently than an alpha 1AT-cDNA construct containing the same beta-lactoglobulin segment. Similarly, the intact beta-lactoglobulin gene was expressed more efficiently than the corresponding intronless beta-lactoglobulin minigene. This effect was not seen in transient expression experiments in baby hamster kidney cells when beta-lactoglobulin-alpha 1AT constructs were driven by SV40 enhancer sequences. The effect cannot be explained by a simple requirement for splicing, since the inclusion of the first beta-lactoglobulin intron into cDNA constructs encoding human alpha 1AT or beta-lactoglobulin itself failed to enhance the efficiency of transgene expression. It is concluded that sequence elements within introns may interact with the upstream 5' flanking sequences of beta-lactoglobulin and enable the latter to function efficiently in the mammary gland of transgenic mice.

    Research areas

  • Animals, Base Sequence, Cell Line, Cricetinae, Crosses, Genetic, Exons, Female, Gene Expression, Introns, Lactoglobulins, Male, Mammary Glands, Animal, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Inbred CBA, Mice, Transgenic, Milk, Milk Proteins, Molecular Sequence Data, Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Organ Specificity, RNA, Messenger, Restriction Mapping, Sheep, Transfection

ID: 8530362