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The genomic regulatory network that controls gene expression ultimately determines form and function in each species. The operational nature of the regulatory programming specified in cis-regulatory DNA sequence was determined from a detailed functional analysis of a sea urchin control element that directs the expression of a gene in the endoderm during development. Spatial expression and repression, and the changing rate of transcription of this gene, are mediated by a complex and extended cis-regulatory system. The system may be typical of developmental cis-regulatory apparatus. All of its activities are integrated in the proximal element, which contains seven target sites for DNA binding proteins. A quantitative computational model of this regulatory element was constructed that explicitly reveals the logical interrelations hard-wired into the DNA.
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