To investigate the regulation of mouse l-histidine decarboxylase (HDC) gene expression, we isolated genomic DNA clones encoding HDC. Structural analysis revealed that the mouse HDC gene was composed of 12 exons, spanning ∼24 kb. Northern blotting analysis indicated that, among the cell lines examined, a high level of HDC gene expression was restricted to mature mast cell lines and an erythroblastic cell line. The gene was induced strongly in the mouse immature mast cell line P815 after incubation in the peritoneal cavity of BDF1 mice. We observed that the promoter region was demethylated in the HDC-expressing cell lines and in induced P815 cells. Interestingly, forced demethylation by 5-azacytidine (5-azaC) treatment induced high expression of HDC mRNA in P815 cells. The activity of a mouse HDC promoter–reporter construct stably transfected in P815 cells was repressed by in vitro patch-methylation. This low promoter activity of the patch-methylated reporter construct was restored after 5-azaC treatment, which demethylated the patch-methylated promoter. These results indicate that DNA methylation state of the promoter region controls HDC gene expression
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