Although expression vectors using viral and mammalian promoters constitutively express genes of interest in adherent cells, few studies have examined whether the function of these vectors in suspended cells, such as in over-agar or soft agar assay (an in vitro cell transformation assay), is as robust as when they are in adherent cells. The selection of appropriate expression vector to optimally express genes in suspended cells would be useful in determining whether these genes play a critical role in maintaining colony formation or cell transformation. To compare promoter-driven expression vector function in adherent versus suspension cells, we performed transient transfection assays using viral (simian virus 40 [SV40] and cytomegalovirus [CMV]) and mammalian (β-actin) promoters fused to luciferase or β-galactosidase reporter gene. Over-agar assay was used to suspend cells on top of agar, which allowed cell retrieval and analysis. We found that β-actin and SV40 promoters exhibited suppressed gene expression of 70 and 56%, respectively, in cells suspended on agar compared with those attached on plates. The suppressed response by the exogenous β-actin promoter in suspension was consistent with the response of the endogenous β-actin promoter activity because the steady-state level of β-actin messenger ribonucleic acid in suspended cells was significantly reduced by 50% relative to that expressed in attached cells. In contrast to SV40 promoter, CMV promoter activity was not decreased in cells suspended in over-agar when compared with adherent cells. These studies show that regardless of mammalian or viral vectors, one cannot assume that all expression vectors behave similarly in both suspension and adherent state.
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Vol. 39 • No. 10