To study the process of mammalian sex determination and in particular to further understand the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of the SRY gene, we have isolated a 4.5-kilobase (kb) pig SRY 5′ flanking sequence. To facilitate the in vitro analysis of these sequences, we have generated a porcine genital ridge (PGR) cell line (9E11) that expresses SRY as well as SOX9, steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1), and DAX1. Via primer extension analysis on RNA from this cell line, a transcription start site for porcine SRY was identified at −661 base pairs (bps) 5′ from the translation initiation site. Deletion studies of the SRY 5′ flanking sequences in PGR 9E11 cells demonstrated that −1.4 kb of 5′ flanking sequences retained full transcriptional activity compared with the −4.5 kb fragment, but that transcriptional activity fell when further deletions were made. Sequences downstream of the transcriptional start site are important for promoter activity, because deleting transcribed but not translated sequences eliminated promoter activity. Sequence analysis of the −1.4 kb fragment identified two potential binding sites for SF-1, at −1369 and at −290 from the ATG. To address the role of SF-1 transactivation in SRY promoter activity, mutagenesis studies of the potential SF-1 binding sites were performed and revealed that these sites were indeed important for SRY promoter activity. Cotransfection studies in a heterologous cell system (mouse CV-1 cells) demonstrated that pig SF-1 was able to transactivate the pig SRY promoter. Gel shift assays confirmed that the upstream site was recognized by mouse SF-1 protein. We conclude that two sites for SF-1 transactivation exist within the pig SRY promoter, at −1369 bp and at −290 bp, and that the site at −1369 bp is quantitatively the most important.
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