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Dev Biol. 2009 Dec 15;336(2):301-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.09.029. Epub 2009 Sep 25.

Cis-regulation and chromosomal rearrangement of the fgf8 locus after the teleost/tetrapod split.

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Sars Centre for Marine Molecular Biology, University of Bergen, Thormøhlensgate 55, N-5008 Bergen, Norway.


The complex expression pattern of fibroblast growth factor 8 (Fgf8) and the cellular responses dependent on concentration of its mRNA in vertebrates suggest that Fgf8 should be tightly controlled at the transcriptional level. We found zebrafish conserved noncoding elements (CNEs) with pan-vertebrate as well as fish-specific orthologous sequences from across 200 kb of the zebrafish fgf8a genomic regulatory block to direct reporter expression in patterns consistent with the expression pattern of fgf8a. These included elements from inside the introns of the skin-specific slc2a15a and the ubiquitously expressed fbxw4 bystander genes. The fgf8a/fbxw4 gene pair, which has remained joined throughout three whole genome duplications in chordate evolution, is inverted in teleost genomes, but CNEs across both evolutionary breakpoints showed specific activity. While some CNEs directed highly reproducible expression patterns, others were subject to variation but showed, in a subset of transgenes, expression in the apical ectodermal ridge, the anterior boundaries of somites and the midbrain-hindbrain boundary, specific Fgf8 signaling domains, suggesting that their activity may be context specific. A human element with tetrapod-specific orthologous sequences directed reporter expression to the vasculature, possibly corresponding to a tetrapod innovation. We conclude that fgf8a transcriptional regulation employs pan-vertebrate and teleost-specific enhancers dispersed over three genes in the zebrafish genome.

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