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Dev Biol. 2013 Mar 1;375(1):79-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.12.012. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

Enhancer activity sensitive to the orientation of the gene it regulates in the chordate genome.

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Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Shimoda, Shizuoka 415-0025, Japan.


Enhancers are flexible in terms of their location and orientation relative to the genes they regulate. However, little is known about whether the flexibility can be applied in every combination of enhancers and genes. Enhancer detection with transposable elements is a powerful method to identify enhancers in the genome and to create marker lines expressing fluorescent proteins in a tissue-specific manner. In the chordate Ciona intestinalis, this method has been established with a Tc1/mariner superfamily transposon Minos. Previously, we created the enhancer detection line E[MiTSAdTPOG]15 (E15) that specifically expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the central nervous system (CNS) after metamorphosis. In this study, we identified the causal insertion site of the transgenic line. There are two genes flanking the causal insertion of the E15 line, and the genomic region around the insertion site contains the enhancers responsible for the expression in the endostyle and gut in addition to the CNS. We found that the endostyle and gut enhancers show sensitivity to the orientation of the GFP gene for their enhancer activity. Namely, the enhancers cannot enhance the expression of GFP which is inserted at the same orientation as the E15 line, while the enhancers can enhance GFP expression inserted at the opposite orientation. The CNS enhancer can enhance GFP expression in both orientations. The DNA element adjacent to the endostyle enhancer is responsible for the orientation sensitivity of the enhancer. The different sensitivity of the enhancers to the orientation of the transgene is a cause of CNS-specific GFP expression in the E15 line.

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