The mPer1 gene is assumed to be a key molecule in the regulation and functioning of the mammalian circadian clock, which is based on the oscillation generated by a transcription-(post)translation feedback loop of a set of clock genes . Robust circadian oscillation and acute light-elicited induction of mPer1 mRNA expression have been observed in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the mammalian circadian center [2,3]. To investigate the mechanism underlying the complex regulation of mPer1 expression, we isolated and characterized the 5' upstream region of the mPer1 gene. Unexpectedly, we identified two promoters, each followed by alternative first exons of mPer1. Consistent with the presence of multiple E-boxes in the promoters, exon-specific in situ hybridization of the SCN established that both promoters function in circadian oscillation and in light-induction of mPer1 expression. Transgenic mice carrying the 5' upstream region of the mPer1 gene fused to the luciferase gene demonstrated that a DNA fragment carrying both promoter regions is sufficient to elicit striking circadian oscillation in the SCN and responsiveness to light. Moreover, luminescence in the SCN accurately mirrored the mPer1 transcriptional activity. These transgenic mice will be very useful for monitoring clock-specific mPer1 expression in intact organisms and to follow the circadian clock in real time.
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