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Mol Cell Biol. 1997 Apr;17(4):2301-11.

cis regulatory requirements for hypodermal cell-specific expression of the Caenorhabditis elegans cuticle collagen gene dpy-7.

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Wellcome Unit of Molecular Parasitology, Anderson College, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.


The Caenorhabditis elegans cuticle collagens are encoded by a multigene family of between 50 and 100 members and are the major component of the nematode cuticular exoskeleton. They are synthesized in the hypodermis prior to secretion and incorporation into the cuticle and exhibit complex patterns of spatial and temporal expression. We have investigated the cis regulatory requirements for tissue- and stage-specific expression of the cuticle collagen gene dpy-7 and have identified a compact regulatory element which is sufficient to specify hypodermal cell reporter gene expression. This element appears to be a true tissue-specific promoter element, since it encompasses the dpy-7 transcription initiation sites and functions in an orientation-dependent manner. We have also shown, by interspecies transformation experiments, that the dpy-7 cis regulatory elements are functionally conserved between C. elegans and C. briggsae, and comparative sequence analysis supports the importance of the regulatory sequence that we have identified by reporter gene analysis. All of our data suggest that the spatial expression of the dpy-7 cuticle collagen gene is established essentially by a small tissue-specific promoter element and does not require upstream activator or repressor elements. In addition, we have found the DPY-7 polypeptide is very highly conserved between the two species and that the C. briggsae polypeptide can function appropriately within the C. elegans cuticle. This finding suggests a remarkably high level of conservation of individual cuticle components, and their interactions, between these two nematode species.

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