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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Sep 3;93(18):9322-8.

Modular cis-regulatory organization of developmentally expressed genes: two genes transcribed territorially in the sea urchin embryo, and additional examples.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125, USA.


The cis-regulatory systems that control developmental expression of two sea urchin genes have been subjected to detailed functional analysis. Both systems are modular in organization: specific, separable fragments of the cis-regulatory DNA each containing multiple transcription factor target sites execute particular regulatory subfunctions when associated with reporter genes and introduced into the embryo. The studies summarized here were carried out on the CyIIIa gene, expressed in the embryonic aboral ectoderm and on the Endo16 gene, expressed in the embryonic vegetal plate, archenteron, and then midgut. The regulatory systems of both genes include modules that control particular aspects of temporal and spatial expression, and in both the territorial boundaries of expression depend on a combination of negative and positive functions. In both genes different regulatory modules control early and late embryonic expression. Modular cis-regulatory organization is widespread in developmentally regulated genes, and we present a tabular summary that includes many examples from mouse and Drosophila. We regard cis-regulatory modules as units of developmental transcription control, and also of evolution, in the assembly of transcription control systems.

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