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Dev Biol. 1996 May 25;176(1):95-107.

Characterization of a SpAN promoter sufficient to mediate correct spatial regulation along the animal-vegetal axis of the sea urchin embryo.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


In order to investigate how the maternally specified animal-vegetal axis of the sea urchin embryo is established, we have examined the molecular basis of regulation of several genes transcribed differentially in nonvegetal and vegetal domains of the very early blastula. Here we present an initial characterization of the regulatory region of one of these, SpAN, which encodes a protease in the astacin family related to Drosophila tolloid and vertebrate BMP-1 (Reynolds et al., Development 114, 769-786). Tests of SpAN promoter function in vivo show that high-level activity and correct not-vegetal expression are mediated by sequences within 300 bp upstream of the basal promoter. In vitro studies have identified six protein binding sites serviced by at least five different proteins. Comparison of the structure of the SpAN promoter to that of SpHE, whose expression pattern is identical, shows that both promoters contain multiple positively acting upstream elements close to the basal promoter. We show that two elements are critical for high-level transcription of SpAN, since exact replacement of either results in 10- to 20-fold reduction in promoter strength. These shared elements are, however, not essential for spatially correct SpHE gene transcription. We conclude that the coordinate strong activities of the SpAN and SpHE promoters in the nonvegetal domain of the embryo rely primarily on different transcription factor activities.

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