Comparative analysis of the human and mouse genomic sequences downstream of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) revealed a highly conserved element with previously undefined function. In reporter gene transfection studies, this element which is located – 42 kb distal to APOE was found to have silencer activity in a subset of cell lines examined. Analysis of transgenic mice containing a fusion construct linking this distal 631 by conserved element to a reporter gene comprised of the human APOE gene with its proximal promoter resulted in robust brain expression of the transgenic human apoE mRNA in three independent transgenic lines, supporting the identification of a novel brain controlling region (BCR). Further studies using immunohistochemistry revealed widespread human apoE localization throughout the brains of the BCR-apoE transgenic mice with prominent expression in the cortex and diencephalon. In addition, double-label immunofluorescence performed on brain sections and cultures of primary cortical cells localized human apoE protein to cortical neurons and microglia. These studies demonstrate that comparative sequence analysis is a successful strategy to predict candidate regulatory regions in vivo, although they do not imply that this element controls apoE expression physiologically. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.