A collagen enhancer-promoter construct in transgenic mice is markedly stimulated by ethanol administration



Type I collagen synthesis and deposition is generally indicative of irreversible damage in alcohol-induced cirrhosis in humans. However, in rodents, ethanol alone does not readily cause hepatic fibrosis. To determine whether this is because of a lack of ethanol-responsive elements, an artificial enhancer construct controlling rat type I collagen gene transcription was prepared in transgenic mice. The gene construct, ColCAT3.6, was a chimeric sequence containing the marker chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene linked to 3.5 kb of the rat α 1(I) 5′-flanking DNA, and 115 base pairs (bp) of transcribed collagen gene. Groups of transgenic mice were given 4 g/kg ethanol orally, twice daily for 4 weeks. As a positive control for hepatic fibrosis, transgenic mice were given intraperitoneal injections of CCl4, twice weekly for 4 weeks. Livers were assayed for CAT activity. Endogenous mouse collagen α 1(I) messenger RNA (mRNA) and transgene CAT mRNA were measured by RNase protection assays. Collagen synthesis in livers from the transgenic mice treated with ethanol were increased over controls, but the levels were not significantly different. Endogenous collagen α 1(I) steady-state mRNA levels in ethanol-treated mice were not significantly different compared with saline-treated controls. However, the transgene mRNA levels in ethanol-treated animals increased approximately 21-fold compared with saline-treated controls, as measured by RNase protection assays. Furthermore, the transgene product as measured by CAT activity in ethanol-treated mice was significantly increased threefold over saline-treated controls. We conclude that the 5′-flanking region of the rat α 1(I) collagen gene does contain regulatory elements that are strongly responsive to ethanol administration.