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Dev Biol. 1996 Jul 10;177(1):1-14.

A switch in broad-complex zinc-finger isoform expression is regulated posttranscriptionally during the metamorphosis of Drosophila imaginal discs.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California, 94720-3200, USA.


The Broad-Complex (BR-C) is a key member of the 20-hydroxyecdysone regulatory hierarchy that coordinates changes in gene expression during Drosophila metamorphosis. The family of transcription factors encoded by the BR-C share a common amino-terminal domain which is fused by alternative splicing to one of four pairs of C2H2 zinc-finger domains (Z1, Z2, Z3, and Z4). In this study, we examine the temporal expression of transcripts encoding each BR-C zinc-finger isoform-including the newly discovered fourth zinc-finger domain-during the metamorphosis of imaginal discs which form the integumental structures of the adult head and thorax. We find that all BR-C zinc-finger RNA isoforms are induced as a primary response to 20-hydroxyecdysone. However, induced BR-C RNA isoforms exhibit two divergent expression profiles. The Z2, Z3, and Z4 RNA isoforms accumulate to high levels at the beginning of the ecdysone response and abruptly disappear after several hours. In contrast, the Z1 RNA isoform continues to accumulate while the others decline, resulting in a switch in relative isoform levels. Using probes specific to different regions of the BR-C, we show that the switch in BR-C RNA isoform expression appears to be posttranscriptionally regulated, presumably by ecdysone-responsive factors. We propose that this switch results from a change in splice acceptor site choice. Finally, we present a model describing how this temporal switch in isoform expression could mediate changes in BR-C function, from transcriptional activation to repression and vice versa, that are critical for coordinate downstream target gene expression.

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