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Gene. 2003 May 22;310:215-20.

Turnover of binding sites for transcription factors involved in early Drosophila development.

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Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular (IBMC), Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre 823, 4150-180, Porto, Portugal.


Despite the importance of cis-regulatory regions in evolution, little is know about their evolutionary dynamics. In this report, we analyze the process of evolution of binding sites for transcription factors using as a model a well characterized system, the Drosophila early developmental enhancers. We compare the sequences of eight enhancer regions for early developmental genes between Drosophila melanogaster and other two species, Drosophila virilis and Drosophila pseudoobscura, searching for the presence/absence of 104 biochemically verified binding sites from D. melanogaster. We also modeled the binding specificity of each binding site by the use of well-defined positional weight matrices (PWMs). The comparisons showed that turnover of binding sites seems to fit a molecular clock, at an approximate rate of 0.94% of gain/loss of binding sites per million years. This intense turnover affects both high and low affinity binding sites at the same extent. Furthermore, the subset of overlapping binding sites is also subjected to this high turnover. Conserved binding sites seem to be constrained to maintain not only location but also the exact sequence at each particular position. Finally, we detected a significant decrease in mean PWM scores for the D. virilis binding sites in the case of Hunchback. Possible explanations for this fact are discussed.

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