A tetracycline-controlled gene expression system provides a powerful tool to dissect the functions of gene products. However, it often appears difficult to establish cell lines or transgenic animals stably expressing tetracycline-dependent transactivators, possibly as a result of toxicity of the transactivator domains used. In order to overcome this problem, we developed a novel tetracycline-dependent transactivator that works efficiently in mammalian cells. This transactivator is a fusion of the tet reverse repressor mutant and the transcriptional activating domain of human E2F4, which is ubiquitously expressed in vivo. We demonstrate here that this tetracycline-regulated gene expression system provides a two log transcriptional activation in mammalian cells as assessed by northern blot and luciferase analyses. Combining this system with green fluorescent protein reporter systems or microarray gene expression profiling will facilitate the study of gene function.
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