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Development. 1998 Jul;125(13):2511-20.

The snail repressor establishes a muscle/notochord boundary in the Ciona embryo.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Division of Genetics, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Previous studies have identified a minimal 434 bp enhancer from the promoter region of the Ciona Brachyury gene (Ci-Bra), which is sufficient to direct a notochord-specific pattern of gene expression. Here we present evidence that a Ciona homolog of snail (Ci-sna) encodes a repressor of the Ci-Bra enhancer in the tail muscles. DNA-binding assays identified four Ci-Sna-binding sites in the Ci-Bra enhancer, and mutations in these sites cause otherwise normal Ci-Bra/lacZ transgenes to be misexpressed in ectopic tissues, particularly the tail muscles. Selective misexpression of Ci-sna using a heterologous promoter results in the repression of Ci-Bra/lacZ transgenes in the notochord. Moreover, the conversion of the Ci-Sna repressor into an activator results in the ectopic induction of Ci-Bra/lacZ transgenes in the muscles, and also causes an intermixing of notochord and muscle cells during tail morphogenesis. These results suggest that Ci-Sna functions as a boundary repressor, which subdivides the mesoderm into separate notochord and tail muscle lineages.

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