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Dev Biol. 2003 Jul 15;259(2):364-79.

The time of appearance of the C. elegans let-7 microRNA is transcriptionally controlled utilizing a temporal regulatory element in its promoter.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520-8103, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large family of small regulatory RNAs that are poorly understood. The let-7 miRNA regulates the timing of the developmental switch from larval to adult cell fates during Caenorhabditis elegans development. Expression of let-7 RNA is temporally regulated, with robust expression in the fourth larval and adult stages. Here, we show that, like let-7 RNA, a transcriptional fusion of the let-7 promoter to gfp is temporally regulated, indicating that let-7 is transcriptionally controlled. Temporal upregulation of let-7 transcription requires an enhancer element, the temporal regulatory element (TRE), situated about 1200 base pairs upstream of the start of the mature let-7 RNA. The TRE is both necessary and sufficient for this temporal upregulation. A TRE binding factor (TREB) is able to bind to the TRE, and a 22-base pair inverted repeat within the TRE is necessary and sufficient for this binding. We also find that the nuclear hormone receptor DAF-12 and the RNA binding protein LIN-28 are both required for the correct timing of let-7 RNA and let-7::gfp expression. We speculate that these heterochronic genes regulate let-7 expression through its TRE.

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