The promoter or regulatory region of the mouse gene for metallothionein-l was fused to the structural gene coding for human growth hormone. These fusion genes were introduced into mice by microinjection of fertilized eggs. Twenty-three (70 percent) of the mice that stably incorporated the fusion genes showed high concentrations of human growth hormone in their serum and grew significantly larger than control mice. Synthesis of human growth hormone was induced further by cadmium or zinc, which normally induce metallothionein gene expression. Transgenic mice that expressed human growth hormone also showed increased concentrations of insulin-like growth factor I in their serum. Histology of their pituitaries suggests dysfunction of the cells that normally synthesize growth hormone. The fusion genes were expressed in all tissues examined, but the ratio of human growth hormone messenger RNA to endogenous metallothionein-l messenger RNA varied among different tissues and different animals, suggesting that expression of the foreign genes is influenced by site of integration and tissue environment.
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