, Volume 105, Issue 4, pp 505-514

A constitutive gene expression system derived from the tCUP cryptic promoter elements

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A limited number of constitutive promoters have been used to direct transgene expression in plants and they are often derived from non-plant sources. Here, we describe novel gene-regulatory elements which are associated with a cryptic constitutive promoter from tobacco, tCUP, and modifications that were made to create a strong gene-expression system that is effective across all living cell types from a wide range of plant species, including several important crops (Arabidopsis, canola, flax, alfalfa, tobacco). The tCUP 5′ untranslated region was mutated to eliminate translational interference by upstream ATGs, and the influence of the Kozak consensus sequence on the levels of a β-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene activity was demonstrated. These modifications resulted in expression that was greatly enhanced in all organs. A TATA consensus sequence was added to the core promoter to complement an existing Initiator (Inr) sequence. Although this addition was known to elevate core promoter activity by 3-fold the additive effect on the overall gene-expression system was marginal in all of the transgenic plants tested. Two transcriptional enhancers were identified and the region containing them were oligomerized, yielding a significant increase in marker gene-expression in some but not all plant species. In general, the enhanced tCUP gene-expression system generated levels of GUS activity which exceeded that of the 35S promoter in most plant species and the elevation in activity occurred uniformly among the various plant organs. The potential benefit of cryptic elements for the construction of gene-expression systems for crop species is discussed

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