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Development. 2000 Jun;127(12):2729-39.

Region-specific activation of the Xenopus brachyury promoter involves active repression in ectoderm and endoderm: a study using transgenic frog embryos.

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  • 1Division of Developmental Biology, National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA, UK.


Tissue specification in the early embryo requires the integration of spatial information at the promoters of developmentally important genes. Although several response elements for signalling pathways have been identified in Xenopus promoters, it is not yet understood what defines the sharp borders that restrict expression to a specific tissue. Here we use transgenic frog embryos to study the spatial and temporal regulation of the Xbra promoter. Deletion analysis and point mutations in putative transcription factor-binding sites identified two repressor modules, which exert their main effects at different stages during gastrulation. One module is defined by a bipartite binding site for a Smad-interacting protein (SIP1) of the deltaEF1 repressor family and acts to confine expression to the marginal zone early in gastrulation. The other module is defined by two homeodomain-binding sites and is responsible for repression in dorsal mesoderm and ectoderm at mid-gastrula stages. In addition, an upstream region of the promoter is necessary to repress expression in neural tissues later in development. Together, our results show that repression plays an important role in the restriction of Xbra expression to the mesoderm, and we suggest that similar mechanisms may be involved in the spatial regulation of other genes in early embryonic development.

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