Identification by cell fusion of gene sequences that interact with positive trans-acting factors

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Science  17 Jul 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4812, pp. 283-286
DOI: 10.1126/science.3474782


Cell fusion experiments have implicated positive or negative regulatory factors in the cell type--specific expression of specialized endogenous genes. The inability to readily manipulate such genes has prevented characterization of the cis-acting DNA sequences that interact with these factors. A transfection-fusion technique, which combined stable gene transfer and formation of transient heterokaryons, was used to study this class of factors and their DNA binding sites. Messenger RNA directed by a quiescent, rat prolactin promoter region stably transferred into mouse fibroblasts was detected only after fusion to rat pituitary cells, implying that pituitary cells contain a positive cell type--specific factor or factors. Nuclear run-on assays showed that fusion activation is transcriptional. Fusion did not activate either a stably transferred rat growth hormone gene promoter or expression of the endogenous silent fibroblast prolactin or growth hormone genes. Analysis by 5'-deletion mutation identified a 30-base pair DNA sequence required for cell fusion activation of the rat prolactin promoter region. Comparison with previous results from direct cellular transfer of this region implies that transfection-fusion identifies novel regulatory DNA sequences.