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Mol Biol Cell. 1992 Feb;3(2):221-33.

Temporal and spatial expression patterns of the small heat shock (hsp16) genes in transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


The expression of the hsp16 gene family in Caenorhabditis elegans has been examined by introducing hsp16-lacZ fusions into the nematode by transformation. Transcription of the hsp16-lacZ transgenes was totally heat-shock dependent and resulted in the rapid synthesis of detectable levels of beta-galactosidase. Although the two hsp16 gene pairs of C. elegans are highly similar within both their coding and noncoding sequences, quantitative and qualitative differences in the spatial pattern of expression between gene pairs were observed. The hsp16-48 promoter was shown to direct greater expression of beta-galactosidase in muscle and hypodermis, whereas the hsp16-41 promoter was more efficient in intestine and pharyngeal tissue. Transgenes that eliminated one promoter from a gene pair were expressed at reduced levels, particularly in postembryonic stages, suggesting that the heat shock elements in the intergenic region of an hsp16 gene pair may act cooperatively to achieve high levels of expression of both genes. Although the hsp16 gene pairs are never constitutively expressed, their heat inducibility is developmentally restricted; they are not heat inducible during gametogenesis or early embryogenesis. The hsp16 genes represent the first fully inducible system in C. elegans to be characterized in detail at the molecular level, and the promoters of these genes should find wide applicability in studies of tissue- and developmentally regulated genes in this experimental organism.

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