A mouse tyrosinase cDNA has been combined with different promoters and inserted into several replication-competent avian leukosis proviruses and the viruses were transferred into cultured albino chick cells by viral infection. Expression of the tyrosinase gene depended on one of four promoter sequences: the resident constitutive promoter (Rous sarcoma virus long-terminal repeat; RSV-LTR), 471 bp from the mouse tyrosinase gene-associated promoter, 519 bp from the Japanese quail tyrosinase gene associated promoter, or 369 bp from the quail tyrosinase promoter. The infected cells expressed tyrosinase and produced pigment which could be seen with the light microscope. Immunofluorescence microscopy, using an anti mouse tyrosinase T1-specific antibody, also showed the presence of mouse tyrosinase. When infected with the same viral titer, gene expression was highest with the constitutive LTR promoter. The quail tyrosinase promoter, while less efficient than the LTR, was more efficient than the other tyrosinase promoter. Fibroblasts and hepatocytes infected with the construct carrying the constitutive promoter or the truncated quail promoter expressed tyrosinase. The mouse and quail promoters appeared to show tissue-specific expression since fibroblasts and hepatocytes infected with viruses carrying these promoters did not express mouse tyrosinase. Toxicity is associated with constitutive expression of tyrosinase in nonmelanocytes. Therefore the viruses that carry the tissue specific promoters should be useful for in vivo studies.
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