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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 1;100(7):4030-4. Epub 2003 Mar 17.

Regulation of Dlx3 gene expression in visceral arches by evolutionarily conserved enhancer elements.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


The mammalian Distal-less (Dlx) clusters (Dlx1-2, Dlx5-6, and Dlx3-7) have a nested expression pattern in developing visceral (branchial) arches. Genetic regulatory mechanisms controlling Dlx spatial expression within the visceral arches have not yet been defined. Here we show that an enhancer in the Dlx3-7 cluster can regulate the visceral arch specific expression pattern of the Dlx3 gene. We have used a 79-kb transgene construct containing the entire Dlx3-7 bigene cluster with a LacZ reporter inserted in frame in the first exon of the Dlx3 gene. Visceral arch expression is absent when a 4-kb element located within the Dlx3-7 intergenic region is deleted. A 245-bp element (I37-2) whose DNA sequence is highly conserved between human and mouse located within the 4kb-deleted region can drive visceral arch expression when fused to a hsp68-lacZ reporter transgene construct. Reporter expression is detected in 9.5 and 10.5 days postcoitum transgenic embryos in a manner consistent with the endogenous Dlx3 expression pattern in the mesenchyme of the first and second visceral arches. Thus the I37-2 element is both necessary and sufficient for Dlx3 expression. The I37-2 element contains several putative binding sites for several transcription factors including Dlx and other homeodomain proteins within the evolutionarily conserved region. Significantly, the I37-2 element shows a sequence-match including a Dlx binding site to a cis-element in the Dlx5-6 intermediate region designated mI56i [Zerucha, T., Stuhmer, T., Hatch, G., Park, B. K., Long, Q., Yu, G., Gambarotta, A., Schultz, J. R., Rubenstein, J. L. & Ekker, M. (2000) J. Neurosci. 20, 709-721], despite distant phylogenetic relationship between these clusters. Our results provide evidence for a concerted role for DLX auto- and cross-regulation in the establishment of a nested expression pattern for Dlx3-7 and Dlx5-6 clusters within the visceral arches.

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