A minimal promoter for the GABA(A) receptor α6-subunit gene controls tissue specificity

Pamela J. McLean, Diana Shpektor, Sabita Bandyopadhyay, Shelley J. Russek, David H. Farb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The ability of nerve cells to regulate the expression of specific neurotransmitter receptors is of central importance to nervous system function, but little is known about the DNA elements that mediate neuron specific gene expression. The type A γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA(A)) receptor α6-subunit gene, which is expressed exclusively in cerebellar granule cells, presents a unique opportunity to study the cis elements involved in restricting gene expression to a distinct neuronal population. In an effort to identify the regulatory elements that govern cerebellar granule cell- specific gene expression, the proximal 5' flanking regions for the human, rat, and mouse α6 genes were cloned and sequenced, and a major transcriptional initiation site was identified in the rodent genes. Functional analysis of rat α6 gene-reporter constructs in primary neuronal cultures reveals that a 155-bp TATA-less promoter region (-130 to +25 bp) constitutes a minimal promoter that can drive cerebellar granule cell- specific expression. Internal deletion and decoy competition studies demonstrate that the minimal promoter contains a 60-bp region (-130 to -70 bp) that is critical for enhanced promoter activity in cerebellar granule cells. Activity of the compromised promoter containing the deletion cannot be rescued by placing the 60-bp region downstream of the reporter gene, demonstrating that it is not a classical enhancer but rather a positionally dependent regulator. An additional cerebellar-specific activating sequence is located between -324 and -130 bp, and a downstream negative regulatory region (+158 to +294) has been shown to be active in fibroblasts but inactive in cerebellar granule cells. Taken together, the results suggest a possible mechanism for the control of cerebellar granule cell-specific expression of the GABA(A) receptor α6 subunit gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1858-1869
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000


  • Cell-specific expression
  • Cerebellum
  • GABA(A) receptor α6 gene
  • Promoter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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