The alpha-fetoprotein enhancer region activates the albumin and alpha-fetoprotein promoters during liver development

Developmental Biology Volume 336, Issue 2, 15 December 2009, Pages 294-300

The four members of the albumin gene family encode the serum transport proteins albumin, alpha-fetoprotein, α-albumin, and vitamin D-binding protein. These genes are transcribed primarily in the liver with each having a different pattern of developmental expression. The tight linkage of these genes, particularly that of albumin, alpha-fetoprotein and α-albumin, and their liver-specific expression, has led to the suggestion that these genes share common regulatory elements.

To directly examine whether the α-fetoprotein enhancer region could regulate the albumin gene family, expression of these genes was monitored in mice in which this region was deleted by homologous recombination. Our data indicate that this enhancer region is required for alpha fetoprotein and albumin activation early in liver development and α-fetoprotein reactivation during liver regeneration, but that albumin, α-albumin, and vitamin D-binding protein expression later in hepatic development is not affected by the absence of these enhancers.

We also demonstrate that RNA polymerase II loading on the α-fetoprotein and albumin promoters is reduced in the absence of this enhancer region, indicating a direct role for these enhancers in the assembly of the RNA Polymerase II complex during liver development