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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Methodology article

Improved Tet-responsive promoters with minimized background expression

Rainer Loew12*, Niels Heinz13, Mathias Hampf4, Hermann Bujard2 and Manfred Gossen45

Author Affiliations

1 EUFETS GmbH, 55743 Idar-Oberstein, Germany

2 Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie (ZMBH), 69120 Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

3 Hannover Medical School, 30625 Hannover, Germany

4 Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), 13125 Berlin, Germany

5 Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT), 13353 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Biotechnology 2010, 10:81  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-10-81

Published: 24 November 2010



The performance of the tetracycline controlled transcriptional activation system (Tet system) depends critically on the choice of minimal promoters. They are indispensable to warrant low expression levels with the system turned "off". On the other hand, they must support high level of gene expression in the "on"-state.


In this study, we systematically modified the widely used Cytomegalovirus (CMV) minimal promoter to further minimize background expression, resulting in an improved dynamic expression range. Using both plasmid-based and retroviral gene delivery, our analysis revealed that especially background expression levels could be significantly reduced when compared to previously established "standard" promoter designs. Our results also demonstrate the possibility to fine-tune expression levels in non-clonal cell populations. They also imply differences regarding the requirements for tight regulation and high level induction between transient and stable gene transfer systems.


Until now, our understanding of mammalian transcriptional regulation including promoter architecture is limited. Nevertheless, the partly empirical modification of cis-elements as shown in this study can lead to the specific improvement of the performance of minimal promoters. The novel composite Ptet promoters introduced here will further expand the utility of the Tet system.