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Dev Genet. 1997;20(4):297-306.

Developmental regulation of the Drosophila Tropomyosin I (TmI) gene is controlled by a muscle activator enhancer region that contains multiple cis-elements and binding sites for multiple proteins.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry M/C536, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago 60612, USA.


Developmental gene regulation in vertebrate somatic muscles involves the cooperative interaction of MEF2 (myocyte-specific enhancer-binding factor 2) and members of the b-HLH (basic helix-loop-helix) family of myogenic factors. Until recently, however, nothing was know about the factors that control the developmental regulation of muscle genes during embryogenesis in Drosophila. The Drosophila Tropomyosin I (TmI) gene contains a proximal and distal muscle enhancer within the first intron that regulates its expression in embryonic/larval and adult muscles. We have recently shown that the 355-bp proximal enhancer contains a binding site for the Drosophila homologue of vertebrate MEF2 and that MEF2 acts cooperatively with a basal level muscle activator region to direct high level muscle expression in transgenic flies. The 92-bp muscle activator region, however, does not contain any consensus E-box (CANNTG) binding site sequences for b-HLH myogenic factors, suggesting the MEF2 may interact with other factors to regulate muscle genes in Drosophila. In this study we have used mutation analysis and germ-line transformation to analyze cis-acting elements within the muscle activator region that regulate its expression in transgenic flies. We have identified a 71-bp region that is sufficient for low basal level temporal- and muscle-specific expression in the embryo, larva, and adult. Substitution mutations within the muscle activator region have identified several cis-element regions spanning 60-bp that are required for either full or partial muscle activator function. An analysis of proteins that bind to this region by gel mobility shift assay and copper nuclease footprinting has allowed us to identify the sites in this region at which multiple proteins complex and interact. We propose that these cis-elements and the proteins that they bind regulate muscle activator function and together with MEF2 are capable of regulating high level muscle expression.

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