, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 19-31

Endogenous and transfected mouse alpha-fetoprotein genes in undifferentiated F9 cells are activated in transient heterokaryons

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Mouse F9 teratocarcinoma cells provide a system to study developmentally regulated alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) gene expression. AFP is not expressed in undifferentiated F9 cells but is induced when cells differentiate as cell aggregates in the presence of retinoic acid. Previous studies have led to the suggestion that undifferentiated F9 cells contain negative regulators of AFP expression. To test this, we have used transient heterokaryons to ask whether inactive AFP genes in undifferentiated F9 cells are responsive to positively actingtrans-acting factors. Our results indicate that silent endogenous and transfected AFP genes are activated when undifferentiated F9 cells are fused to human hepatoma HepG2 cells. This suggests that the lack of AFP expression in undifferentiated F9 cells is due to the absence or insufficient level of positive-acting transcription factors, rather than the presence of dominant negative regulators. We also demonstrate that stably transfected AFP genes, although unmethylated, are properly regulated in F9 cells.