, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 755-764

Analysis of promoter activity from an α-zein gene 5′ flanking sequence in transient expression assays

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Three DNA regions required for high levels of transcription were identified by transient gene expression analysis of the 5′ flanking region of a 19 kDa α-zein gene. For these analyses, the zein promoter region was fused to the β-glucuronidase (GUS) gene and assayed by transient expression in carrot protoplasts. A 107-bp sequence (-114/-8) containing the TATA box resulted in low levels of GUS activity. Addition of the proximal 75 bp (-189/-114) doubled the level of GUS expression, and a further increase in expression was obtained when additional upstream sequences (-483/-226) were placed 5′ of the zein promoters. Zein upstream sequences enhanced transcription independently of the-189/-114 region. Although the-189/-114 region was not essential for transcription, it was important to obtain maximum GUS activity. A 121 bp upstream sequence (-347/-226) that contains the conserved TGTAAAG sequence gave high levels of GUS activity when placed in either orientation 5′ of the zein promoter sequences. However, nucleotides-347 to-309, containing the TGTAAAG sequence, could be deleted from this fragment without a significant change in GUS activity. Zein upstream sequences did not promote transcription of the GUS gene in somatic maize protoplasts. The upstream activating sequence from the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter placed 5′ of deletion mutants of the zein promoter also failed to produce GUS activity above background.