We recently generated and characterized transgenic mice in which regulatory sequences from a myosin light chain gene (MLC1f/3f) are linked to the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene. Transgene expression in these mice is specific to skeletal muscle and graded along the rostrocaudal axis: adult muscles derived from successively more caudal somites express successively higher levels of CAT. To investigate the cellular basis of these patterns of expression, we developed and used a histochemical stain that allows detection of CAT in individual cells. Our main results are as follows: (a) Within muscles, CAT is detected only in muscle fibers and not in associated connective tissue, blood vessels, or nerves. Thus, the tissue specificity of transgene expression observed by biochemical assay reflects a cell-type specificity demonstrable histochemically. (b) Within individual muscles, CAT levels vary with fiber type. Like the endogenous MLC1f/3f gene, the transgene is expressed at higher levels in fast-twitch (type II) than in slow-twitch (type I) muscle fibers. In addition, CAT levels vary among type II fiber subtypes, in the order IIB greater than IIX greater than IIA. (c) Among muscles that are similar in fiber type composition, the average level of CAT per fiber varies with rostrocaudal position. This position-dependent variation in CAT level is apparent even when fibers of a single type are compared. From these results, we conclude that fiber type and position affect CAT expression independently. We therefore infer the existence of separate fiber type-specific and positionally graded transcriptional regulators that act together to determine levels of transgene expression.

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