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Dev Biol. 2007 Jun 15;306(2):860-9. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

Cis-regulatory control of the nodal gene, initiator of the sea urchin oral ectoderm gene network.

Author information

1
Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.

Abstract

Expression of the nodal gene initiates the gene regulatory network which establishes the transcriptional specification of the oral ectoderm in the sea urchin embryo. This gene encodes a TGFbeta ligand, and in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus its transcription is activated in the presumptive oral ectoderm at about the 30-cell stage. Thereafter Nodal signaling occurs among all cells of the oral ectoderm territory, and nodal expression is required for expression of oral ectoderm regulatory genes. The cis-regulatory system of the nodal gene transduces anisotropically distributed cytoplasmic cues that distinguish the future oral and aboral domains of the early embryo. Here we establish the genomic basis for the initiation and maintenance of nodal gene expression in the oral ectoderm. Functional cis-regulatory control modules of the nodal gene were identified by interspecific sequence conservation. A 5' cis-regulatory module functions both to initiate expression of the nodal gene and to maintain its expression by means of feedback input from the Nodal signal transduction system. These functions are mediated respectively by target sites for bZIP transcription factors, and by SMAD target sites. At least one SMAD site is also needed for the initiation of expression. An intron module also contains SMAD sites which respond to Nodal feedback, and in addition acts to repress vegetal expression. These observations explain the main features of nodal expression in the oral ectoderm: since the activity of bZIP factors is redox sensitive, and the initial polarization of oral vs. aboral fate is manifested in a redox differential, the bZIP sites account for the activation of nodal on the oral side; and since the immediate early signal transduction response factors for Nodal are SMAD factors, the SMAD sites account for the feedback maintenance of nodal gene expression.

PMID:
17451671
PMCID:
PMC2063469
DOI:
10.1016/j.ydbio.2007.03.033
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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