Identification and Characterization of the Murine Germline Immunoglobulin Heavy Chain Epsilon Constant Region Promoter

Publication Date

August 1994

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology


Germ Cells; Immunoglobulin epsilon; Promoter Regions (Genetics); Academic Dissertations; Dissertations, UMMS


Cytokine induced transcription of the germline immunoglobulin heavy chain gene directs isotype switch recombination to that gene. Therefore, understanding the regulation of germline transcription is an important first step in understanding the class switching process. Treatment of human B cells with IL-4 results in germline epsilon transcription. Subsequent activation of a second signal is necessary for these cells to undergo class switch recombination and express surface IgE. In contrast, treatment of splenic murine B-cells with IL-4 alone does not induce germline epsilon transcription. However, treatment with IL-4 plus LPS does induces germline epsilon transcription, followed by class switching to the IgE isotype. In both human and mouse, IL-4 is absolutely required for induction of germline transcripts and expression of IgE. Therefore, IL-4 is considered to be an IgE switch factor.

The murine B lymphoma line, I.29μ is an IgM+ B cell line which can be induced to switch to the IgE isotype by treatment with IL-4 plus LPS. In these cells, germline epsilon transcription is constitutive and can be further induced 5-20 fold with IL-4, whereas LPS has no effect at the RNA level. Thus, the I.29μ cell line provides a model system to study the regulatory effects of IL-4 on the murine germline epsilon promoter. The aim of this thesis is to characterize the murine germline epsilon promoter and identify the minimal DNA elements necessary and sufficient for IL-4 induction.

To identify the promoter elements, two kb of the 5' flanking region to the first exon (Iε) of the germline epsilon transcript was cloned into a Luciferase reporter plasmid and assayed for promoter activity. Assay of successive 5' deletion mutations by transfections into two B cell lines, I.29μ and M12.4.1, identified the 213 bp promoter construct, -162Luc, as containing sufficient sequence to confer full promoter function. Assay of the linker scanning mutations in the -162Luc plasmid localized the IL-4 responsive effect to a 46 bp region of the promoter. This region contains three nuclear factor binding elements: a C/EBP site, a recently identified NF-IL-4 site and a NFкB/p50 site.

In order to detect protein complexes that specifically interact with this active region of DNA, electrophoretic mobility shift assays were performed using double stranded, oligonucleotide probes of this IL-4 responsive region. An IL-4 inducible complex was identified in nuclear extracts of I.29μ as well as murine splenic B-cells. Competition experiments with mutant probes mapped this inducible complex to the NF-IL-4 site. Constitutive binding of both C/EBP and NFкB/p50 was demonstrated by cold competition and supershift experiments.

Transfection experiments using a series of linker scanning mutations allowed identification of DNA elements necessary for IL-4 induction. In order to test if these elements are sufficent for IL-4 induction, double stranded oligonucleotides containing these elements were transfered to a minimal fos promoter plasmid and assayed for IL-4 responsiveness. A 27 bp fragment containing two DNA elements, a C/EBP and a NF-IL-4 site were sufficient to confer IL-4 inducibility to a minimal c-fos promoter.

This study defined a different IL-4 response element in the murine germline epsilon promoter from that previously published. This IL-4 response element is identical to the IL-4 response element in the human germline epsilon promoter. The NF-IL-4 site is also present in the promoter of the IL-4 responsive gene, CD23b (FcεRII), and this element binds an IL-4 inducible complex present in the human monocytic cell line U937.

Various reports demonstrate the presence of an IL-4 inducible complex by gel shift assays and indeed the binding activity of NF-IL-4 has been mapped to a 9 bp consensus sequence within a 19 bp fragment. However, the transfer of IL-4 inducibility has not been reported using fragments smaller than 123 bp, the importance of which is underscored by the fact that more than one factor is involved in this induction. The contribution of this thesis to the understanding of transcriptional induction by IL-4 is in the delineation of the factors involved - namely, a member of the C/EBP family and NF-IL-4 are required for IL-4 induction and NFкB/p5O modulates this induction.


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