A 6-kb promoter fragment mimics in transgenic mice the prostate-specific and androgen-regulated expression of the endogenous prostate-specific antigen gene in humans
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a kallikrein-like serine protease, which is almost exclusively synthesized in the luminal epithelial cells of the human prostate. PSA expression is androgen regulated. Previously, we characterized in vitro the proximal promoter, and a strong enhancer region, approximately 4 kb upstream of the PSA gene. Both regions are needed for high, androgen-regulated activity of the PSA promoter in LNCaP cells. The goal of the present study is the in vivo characterization of the PSA promoter. Three transgenic mouse lines carrying the Escherichia coli LacZ gene, driven by the 632-bp proximal PSA promoter, and three lines with LacZ, driven by the 6-kb PSA promoter, were generated. Expression of the LacZ reporter gene was analyzed in a large series of tissues. Transgene expression could not be demonstrated in any of the transgenic animals carrying the proximal PSA promoter. All three lines carrying the 6-kb PSA promoter showed lateral prostate-specific beta-galactosidase activity. Transgene expression was undetectable until 8 weeks after birth. Upon castration, beta-galactosidase activity rapidly declined. It could be restored by subsequent androgen administration. A search for mouse PSA-related kallikrein genes expressed in the prostate led to the identification of mGK22, which was previously demonstrated to be expressed in the submandibular salivary gland. Therefore, the 6-kb PSA-LacZ transgene followed the expression pattern of the PSA gene in humans, which is almost completely prostate-specific, rather than that of mGK22 in mice. In conclusion, the 6-kb promoter fragment appears to contain most, if not all, information for androgen regulation and prostate specificity of the PSA gene.