Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) plays an important role in the development and function of the central nervous system (CNS). Little is known, however, about the factors and mechanisms involved in regulation of CNS IGF-I gene expression. To facilitate our goal to define mechanisms of IGF-I gene regulation in the CNS, we generated several lines of transgenic (Tg) mice that express firefly luciferase (LUC) under control of a 11.3-kb fragment from the 5' region of the rat IGF-I gene. Consistent with expression of the native IGF-I gene in murine brain, expression of the transgene predominated in neurons and astrocytes and used promoter 1, the major IGF-I promoter in the CNS and in most tissues. Transgene messenger RNA and protein expression rapidly increased after birth and peaked at postnatal (P) day 4 in all brain regions studied. LUC activities in all regions then gradually decreased to 0.5-4% of their peak values at P31, except for the olfactory bulb, which maintained about one third of its maximal activity. Compared with littermate controls administration of dexamethasone decreased LUC activity and transgenic IGF-I messenger RNA abundance, whereas GH significantly increased the expression of the transgene. Addition of GH to cultured fetal brain cells from Tg mice for 12 h also increased LUC activity in a dose- dependent manner (77-388%). These results show that this IGF-I promoter transgene is expressed in a fashion similar to the endogenous IGF-I gene, and thus indicates that the transgene contains cis-elements essential for developmental, GH, and glucocorticoid regulation of IGF-I gene expression in the CNS. These Tg mice should serve as an useful model to study mechanisms of IGF-I gene regulation in the brain.
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