TRH, an amidated tripeptide secreted by certain hypothalamic neurons, is a principal regulator of TSH secretion and thyroid hormone release. TRH is also produced by other neurons in the central nervous system, where it appears to function as a neuromodulator or neurotransmitter, and by certain endocrine cells, where it may act as an autocrine or paracrine factor. The genomic organization of the rat TRH (rTRH) gene is well understood; however, the domains of the rTRH gene that regulate expression are less well characterized. We observed that the region between -47 and +6 of the rTRH gene (relative to the transcription start site at +1) was active in CA-77 cells, a medullary thyroid carcinoma cell line model of TRH production, but was not active in transgenic mice. Inclusion of most of exon 1 (84 out of 103 bp; -47 to+ 84) increased promoter activity in CA-77 cells and was active in transgenic mice, principally in tissues that normally express the TRH gene. Further lengthening of the 5' end to -243, -547, or -776 retained this expression in TRH-producing tissues in transgenic mice, while further increasing activity in CA-77 cells. These results suggest that cis element(s) located within exon 1 are necessary for the expression of the rTRH gene in vivo.
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