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Development. 2019 Jun 21;146(13). pii: dev177378. doi: 10.1242/dev.177378.

Transcription factor autoregulation is required for acquisition and maintenance of neuronal identity.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
2
Department of Biological Sciences, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA or38@columbia.edu.

Abstract

The expression of transcription factors that initiate the specification of a unique cellular identity in multicellular organisms is often maintained throughout the life of the respective cell type via an autoregulatory mechanism. It is generally assumed that such autoregulation serves to maintain the differentiated state of a cell. To experimentally test this assumption, we used CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome engineering to delete a transcriptional autoregulatory, cis-acting motif in the che-1 zinc-finger transcription factor locus, a terminal selector required to specify the identity of the ASE neuron pair during embryonic development of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We show that che-1 autoregulation is indeed required to maintain the differentiated state of the ASE neurons but that it is also required to amplify che-1 expression during embryonic development to reach an apparent minimal threshold to initiate the ASE differentiation program. We conclude that transcriptional autoregulation fulfills two intrinsically linked purposes: one in proper initiation, the other in proper maintenance of terminal differentiation programs.This article has an associated 'The people behind the papers' interview.

KEYWORDS:

Autoregulation; C. elegans; Neuronal identity; Transcriptional control

PMID:
31227642
PMCID:
PMC6633604
[Available on 2020-07-01]
DOI:
10.1242/dev.177378

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