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Development. 2001 Mar;128(5):617-29.

Cis-regulatory logic in the endo16 gene: switching from a specification to a differentiation mode of control.

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  • 1Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


The endo16 gene of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus encodes a secreted protein of the embryonic and larval midgut. The overall functional organization of the spatial and temporal control system of this gene are relatively well known from a series of earlier cis-regulatory studies. Our recent computational model for the logic operations of the proximal region of the endo16 control system (Module A) specifies the function of interactions at each transcription factor target site of Module A. Here, we extend sequence level functional analysis to the adjacent cis-regulatory region, Module B. The computational logic model is broadened to include B/A interactions as well as other Module B functions. Module B drives expression later in development and its major activator is responsible for a sharp, gut-specific increase in transcription after gastrulation. As shown earlier, Module B output undergoes a synergistic amplification that requires interactions within Module A. The interactions within Module B that are required to generate and transmit its output to Module A are identified. Logic considerations predicted an internal cis-regulatory switch by which spatial control of endo16 expression is shifted from Module A (early) to Module B (later). This prediction was confirmed experimentally and a distinct set of interactions in Module B that mediate the switch function was demonstrated. The endo16 computational model now provides a detailed explanation of the information processing functions executed by the cis-regulatory system of this gene throughout embryogenesis. Early in development the gene participates in the specification events that define the endomesoderm; later it functions as a gut-specific differentiation gene. The cis-regulatory switch mediates this functional change.

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