Efficient transcription of a Caenorhabditis elegans heat shock gene pair in mouse fibroblasts is dependent on multiple promoter elements which can function bidirectionally.

R. J. Kay, R. J. Boissy, R. H. Russnak, E. P. Candido

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


A divergently transcribed pair of Caenorhabditis elegans hsp16 genes was introduced into mouse fibroblasts by stable transfection with vectors containing bovine papillomavirus plasmid maintenance sequences and a selectable gene. The hsp16 genes were transcriptionally inactive in the mouse cells under normal growth conditions and were strongly induced by heat shock or arsenite. In a cell line with 12 copies of the gene pair, there were estimated to be more than 10,000 hsp16 transcripts in each cell after 2 h of heat shock treatment. The hsp16 transcript levels were more than 100 times higher than those of a gene with a herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene promoter carried on the same vector. A single heat shock promoter element (HSE) could activate bidirectional transcription of the two hsp16 genes when placed between the two TATA elements, but the transcriptional efficiency was reduced 10-fold relative to that of the wild-type gene pair. Four overlapping HSEs positioned between the two TATA elements resulted in inducible bidirectional transcription at greater than wild-type levels. The number of HSEs can therefore be a major determinant of the promoter strength of heat-inducible genes in mammalian cells. Partial disruption of an alternating purine-pyrimidine sequence between the two hsp16 genes had no significant effect on their transcriptional activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3134-3143
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1986


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

Cite this