The myosin light chain IF/3F locus contains two independent promoters, MLC1F and MLC3F, which are differentially activated during skeletal muscle development. Transcription at this locus is regulated by a 3' skeletal muscle enhancer element, which directs correct temporal and tissue-specific expression from the MLC1F promoter in transgenic mice. To investigate the role of this enhancer in regulation of the MLC3F promoter in vivo, we have analyzed reporter gene expression in transgenic mice containing lacZ under transcriptional control of the mouse MLC3F promoter and 3' enhancer element. Our results show that these regulatory elements direct strong expression of lacZ in skeletal muscle; the transgene, however, is activated 4-5 d before the endogenous MLC3F promoter, at the time of initiation of MLC1F transcription. In adult mice, transgene activity is downregulated in muscles that have reduced contributions of type IIB fibers (soleus and diaphragm). The rostrocaudal positional gradient of transgene expression documented for MLC1F transgenic mice (Donoghue, M., J. P. Merlie, N. Rosenthal, and J. R. Sanes. 1991. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 88:5847-5851) is not seen in MLC3F transgenic mice. Although MLC3F was previously thought to be restricted to skeletal striated muscle, the MLC3F-lacZ transgene is expressed in cardiac muscle from 7.5 d of development in a spatially restricted manner in the atria and left ventricular compartments, suggesting that transcriptional differences exist between cardiomyocytes in left and right compartments of the heart. We show here that transgene-directed expression of the MLC3F promoter reflects low level expression of endogenous MLC3F transcripts in the mouse heart.

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