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Development. 1995 Sep;121(9):3067-77.

Posterior stripe expression of hunchback is driven from two promoters by a common enhancer element.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0366, USA.


The gap gene hunchback (hb) is required for the formation and segmentation of two regions of the Drosophila embryo, a broad anterior domain and a narrow posterior domain. Accumulation of hb transcript in the posterior of the embryo occurs in two phases, an initial cap covering the terminal 15% of the embryo followed by a stripe at the anterior edge of this region. By in situ hybridization with transcript-specific probes, we show that the cap is composed only of mRNA from the distal transcription initiation site (P1), while the later posterior stripe is composed of mRNA from both the distal and proximal (P2) transcription initiation sites. Using a series of genomic rescue constructs and promoter-lacZ fusion genes, we define a 1.4 kb fragment of the hb upstream region that is both necessary and sufficient for posterior expression. Sequences within this fragment mediate regulation by the terminal gap genes tailless (tll) and a huckebein, which direct the formation of the posterior hb stripe. We show that the tll protein binds in vitro to specific sites within the 1.4 kb posterior enhancer region, providing the first direct evidence for activation of gene expression by tll. We propose a model in which the anterior border of the posterior hb stripe is determined by tll concentration in a manner analogous to the activation of anterior hb expression by bicoid.

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