Background: TGM1(transglutaminase 1) is an enzyme that crosslinks the cornified envelope of mature keratinocytes. Appropriate expression of the TGM1 gene is crucial for proper keratinocyte function as inactivating mutations lead to the debilitating skin disease, lamellar ichthyosis. TGM1 is also expressed in squamous metaplasia, a consequence in some epithelia of vitamin A deficiency or toxic insult that can lead to neoplasia. An understanding of the regulation of this gene in normal and abnormal differentiation states may contribute to better disease diagnosis and treatment. Methods: In vivo requirements for expression of the TGM1 gene were studied by fusing various lengths of promoter DNA to a reporter and injecting the DNA into mouse embryos to generate transgenic animals. Expression of the reporter was ascertained by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Further delineation of a transcriptionally important distal region was determined by transfections of progressively shortened or mutated promoter DNA into cultured keratinocytes. Results: In vivo analysis of a reporter transgene driven by the TGM1 promoter revealed that 1.6 kilobases, but not 1.1 kilobases, of DNA was sufficient to confer tissue-specific and cell layer-specific expression. This same region was responsible for reporter expression in tissues undergoing squamous metaplasia as a response to vitamin A deprivation. Mutation of a distal promoter AP1 site or proximal promoter CRE site, both identified as important transcriptional elements in transfection assays, did not prevent appropriate expression. Further searching for transcriptional elements using electrophoretic mobility shift (EMSA) and transfection assays in cultured keratinocytes identified two Sp1 elements in a transcriptionally active region between -1.6 and -1.4 kilobases. While mutation of either Sp1 site or the AP1 site singly had only a small effect, mutation of all three sites eliminated nearly all the transcriptional activity. Conclusions: A distal region of the TGM1 gene promoter, containing AP1 and Sp1 binding sites, is evolutionarily conserved and responsible for high level expression in transgenic mice and in transfected keratinocyte cultures.
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