Expression of myelin basic protein in differentiating oligodendrocytes is mainly regulated at the transcriptional level. To better understand the regulation of myelin basic protein gene expression in mammalian cells, we cloned and characterized the rat myelin basic protein promoter by a genome walking technique. Extensive sequence homology has been found among mouse, rat and human MBP promoters. Alignment of the proximal core promoter of mouse and rat reveals highly conserved cis-elements that are important for regulating myelin basic protein gene transcription. One major transcription start site along with two minor sites have been identified in both mouse and rat myelin basic protein gene promoters using RNA ligase-mediated rapid amplification of 5′ cDNA ends. The amplified rat myelin basic protein promoter was cloned into a luciferase reporter construct. Transient transfection experiments show that both mouse and rat myelin basic protein promoters yield increased expression when oligodendrocytes differentiate. The sequence and characterization of the rat MBP promoter provide a useful tool to investigate MBP gene regulation in mammalian cells.
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