, Volume 254, Issue 3, pp 291-296

Introns boost transgene expression in Drosophila melanogaster

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Using Drosophila as a host, we have examined the effect that the presence of an intron has on the accumulation of a processed transgene mRNA. To provide a model system that was free from major position effects, two fish antifreeze protein (AFP) transgenes were arranged in divergent transcriptional orientation from a central Drosophila yolk protein promoter/enhancer region and introduced into the flies by P-element transformation and/or mobilization. In this way the organization of both the structural genes and the promoter elements mimicked their natural arrangements. When one member of the fish AFP transgene pair had its single 180 bp intron deleted, there was a 2- to 11-fold (average 5-fold) decrease in its mRNA level compared to that generated from the control gene containing the fish AFP intervening sequence. When the deleted intron was replaced by a 70 bp intervening sequence originating from the yolk protein 1 gene, mRNA accumulation was restored to its original level. Even for the streamlined genome of Drosophila, where the intron number and size are generally reduced compared to mammals, the presence of an intervening sequence appears to facilitate mRNA accumulation.

Received: 7 June 1996 / Accepted: 29 October 1996