Trophoblast, the only fetal tissue in direct contact with maternal cells, fails to express the polymorphic HLA class I molecules HLA-A and -B, but does express the nonpolymorphic class I molecule HLA-G. It is thought that HLA-G may provide some of the functions of a class I molecule without stimulating maternal immune rejection of the fetal semiallograft. As a first step in identifying the cis-acting DNA regulatory elements involved in the control of class I expression by extraembryonic tissue, several types of transgenic mice were produced. Two HLA-G genomic fragments were used, 5.7 and 6.0 kb in length. These included the entire HLA-G coding region, 1 kb of 3' flanking sequence, and 1.2 or 1.4 kb of 5' flanking sequence, respectively. A hybrid transgene, HLA-A2/G, was produced by replacing the 5' flanking sequence, first exon, and early first intron of HLA-G with the corresponding elements of HLA-A. Comparison of transgene mRNA expression patterns seen in HLA-A2/G and HLA-G transgenic mice suggests that 5' flanking sequences are largely responsible for the differing patterns of expression typical of the classical class I and HLA-G genes. Studies comparing the extraembryonic HLA-G expression levels of founder embryos transgenic for either the 5.7- or 6.0-kb HLA-G transgene showed that the 6.0-kb transgene directed HLA-G expression far more efficiently than did the 5.7-kb HLA-G transgene, producing extraembryonic HLA-G mRNA levels similar to those seen in human extraembryonic tissues. The results of these studies suggest that the 250-bp fragment present at the extreme 5' end of the 6.0-kb HLA-G transgene and absent from the 5.7-kb HLA-G transgene contains an important positive regulatory element. This 250-bp fragment lies further upstream than any of the previously documented class I regulatory regions and may function as a locus control region.

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