In humans, expression of the FMO1 (flavin-containing mono-oxygenase 1) gene is silenced postnatally in liver, but not kidney. In adult mouse, however, the gene is active in both tissues. We investigated the basis of this species-dependent tissue-specific transcription of FMO1. Our results indicate the use of three alternative promoters. Transcription of the gene in fetal human and adult mouse liver is exclusively from the P0 promoter, whereas in extra-hepatic tissues of both species, P1 and P2 are active. Reporter gene assays showed that the proximal P0 promoters of human (hFMO1) and mouse (mFmo1) genes are equally effective. However, sequences upstream (−2955 to −506) of the proximal P0 of mFmo1 increased reporter gene activity 3-fold, whereas hFMO1 upstream sequences (−3027 to −541) decreased reporter gene activity by 75%. Replacement of the upstream sequence of human P0 with the upstream sequence of mouse P0 increased activity of the human proximal P0 8-fold. Species-specific repetitive elements are present immediately upstream of the proximal P0 promoters. The human gene contains five LINE (long-interspersed nuclear element)-1-like elements, whereas the mouse gene contains a poly A region, an 80-bp direct repeat, an LTR (long terminal repeat), a SINE (short-interspersed nuclear element) and a poly T tract. The rat and rabbit FMO1 genes, which are expressed in adult liver, lack some (rat) or all (rabbit) of the elements upstream of mouse P0. Thus silencing of FMO1 in adult human liver is due apparently to the presence upstream of the proximal P0 of L1 (LINE-1) elements rather than the absence of retrotransposons similar to those found in the mouse gene.

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