Chromosome position effects combined with transgene silencing of multi-copy plasmid insertions lead to highly variable and usually quite low expression levels of mini-genes integrated into mammalian chromosomes. Together, these effects greatly complicate obtaining high-level expression of therapeutic proteins in mammalian cells or reproducible expression of individual or multiple transgenes. Here, we report a simple, one-step procedure for obtaining high-level, reproducible mini-gene expression in mammalian cells. By inserting mini-genes at different locations within a BAC containing the DHFR housekeeping gene locus, we obtain copy-number-dependent, position-independent expression with chromosomal insertions of one to several hundred BAC copies. These multi-copy DHFR BAC insertions adopt similar large-scale chromatin conformations independent of their chromosome integration site, including insertions within centromeric heterochromatin. Prevention of chromosome position effects, therefore, may be the result of embedding the mini-gene within the BAC-specific large-scale chromatin structure. The expression of reporter mini-genes can be stably maintained during continuous, long-term culture in the presence of drug selection. Finally, we show that this method is extendable to reproducible, high-level expression of multiple mini-genes, providing improved expression of both single and multiple transgenes.
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