Our previous studies have demonstrated that a 2-[N-(acetoxyacetyl)amino]fluorene-transformed rat epithelial-like cell line, W8, contains a transcriptionally inactive alpha 2(I) gene with a hypermethylated promoter/first-exon region. We have cloned the rat promoter/first-exon region (-211 to +207) from W8 cells and their parent cell line, K16, which expresses alpha 2(I) collagen. There were no sequence differences between the clones from the two cell lines, indicating that a mutation was not responsible for transcriptional inhibition. The alpha 2(I) rat promoters were cloned upstream of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase gene. Both constructs were equally active in both cell lines, suggesting that trans-activating factors for alpha 2(I) transcription are present in W8 cells. Finally, methylation of plasmids at all CpG sites with SssI methylase completely inhibited transcription using alpha 2(I) promoters, but methylation did not inhibit simian-virus-40 promoter-driven transcription. Certain methylation sites partially inhibit promoter activity. An HhaI methylation site inhibited transcriptional activity of the alpha 2(I) promoter 8-fold, whereas methylation at the HpaII site in the rat alpha 2(I) promoter did not decrease transcriptional activity. This provides further evidence that methylation at specific sites in the collagen alpha 2(I) promoter is responsible for the inactivation of transcription in W8 cells.

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