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Development. 2011 Sep;138(18):4075-84. doi: 10.1242/dev.069146. Epub 2011 Aug 3.

Complex interactions between cis-regulatory modules in native conformation are critical for Drosophila snail expression.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, 1200 East California Boulevard, MC114-96, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.

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  • Development. 2011 Oct;138(20):4566.


It has been shown in several organisms that multiple cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) of a gene locus can be active concurrently to support similar spatiotemporal expression. To understand the functional importance of such seemingly redundant CRMs, we examined two CRMs from the Drosophila snail gene locus, which are both active in the ventral region of pre-gastrulation embryos. By performing a deletion series in a ∼25 kb DNA rescue construct using BAC recombineering and site-directed transgenesis, we demonstrate that the two CRMs are not redundant. The distal CRM is absolutely required for viability, whereas the proximal CRM is required only under extreme conditions such as high temperature. Consistent with their distinct requirements, the CRMs support distinct expression patterns: the proximal CRM exhibits an expanded expression domain relative to endogenous snail, whereas the distal CRM exhibits almost complete overlap with snail except at the anterior-most pole. We further show that the distal CRM normally limits the increased expression domain of the proximal CRM and that the proximal CRM serves as a `damper' for the expression levels driven by the distal CRM. Thus, the two CRMs interact in cis in a non-additive fashion and these interactions may be important for fine-tuning the domains and levels of gene expression.

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