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Development. 1999 Dec;126(23):5473-83.

SpSoxB1, a maternally encoded transcription factor asymmetrically distributed among early sea urchin blastomeres.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627, USA.


We have identified a Sox family transcription factor, SpSoxB1, that is asymmetrically distributed among blastomeres of the sea urchin embryo during cleavage, beginning at 4th cleavage. SpSoxB1 interacts with a cis element that is essential for transcription of SpAN, a gene that is activated cell autonomously and expressed asymmetrically along the animal-vegetal axis. In vitro translated SpSoxB1 forms a specific complex with this cis element whose mobility is identical to that formed by a protein in nuclear extracts. An anti-SpSoxB1 rabbit polyclonal antiserum specifically supershifts this DNA-protein complex and recognizes a single protein on immunoblots of nuclear proteins that comigrates with in vitro translated SpSoxB1. Developmental immunoblots of total proteins at selected early developmental stages, as well as EMSA of egg and 16-cell stage proteins, show that SpSoxB1 is present at low levels in unfertilized eggs and progressively accumulates during cleavage. SpSoxB1 maternal transcripts are uniformly distributed in the unfertilized egg and the protein accumulates to similar, high concentrations in all nuclei of 4- and 8-cell embryos. However, at fourth cleavage, the micromeres, which are partitioned by asymmetric division of the vegetal 4 blastomeres, have reduced nuclear levels of the protein, while high levels persist in their sister macromeres and in the mesomeres. During cleavage, the uniform maternal SpSoxB1 transcript distribution is replaced by a zygotic nonvegetal pattern that reinforces the asymmetric SpSoxB1 protein distribution and reflects the corresponding domain of SpAN mRNA accumulation at early blastula stage ( approximately 150 cells). The vegetal region lacking nuclear SpSoxB1 gradually expands so that, after blastula stage, only cells in differentiating ectoderm accumulate this protein in their nuclei. The results reported here support a model in which SpSoxB1 is a major regulator of the initial phase of asymmetric transcription of SpAN in the nonvegetal domain by virtue of its distribution at 4th cleavage and is subsequently an important spatial determinant of expression in the early blastula. This factor is the earliest known spatially restricted regulator of transcription along the animal-vegetal axis of the sea urchin embryo.

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