Neural-specific expression of a sodium channel minigene has been shown to be mediated by a 28 bp silencer element, RE1, located in the 5′ flanking region of the gene. This element is active exclusively in cell lines that do not express the endogenous brain type II sodium channel gene, including fibroblast, skeletal muscle, and certain neuronal cell lines. All of these non-type II expressing cells contain RE1-binding complexes. On the basis of mutational analysis and in vivo "repressor trap" experiments, we propose that cell-specific RE1-binding proteins are responsible, at least in part, for restricting expression of the type II sodium channel gene to specific neurons in the vertebrate nervous system.
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