Cis-Acting Transcriptional Repression Establishes a Sharp Boundary in Chordate Embryos

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Science  24 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6097, pp. 964-967
DOI: 10.1126/science.1222488

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The function of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling in dorsoventral (DV) patterning of animal embryos is conserved among Bilateria. In vertebrates, the BMP ligand antidorsalizing morphogenetic protein (Admp) is expressed dorsally and moves to the opposite side to specify the ventral fate. Here, we show that Pinhead is an antagonist specific for Admp with a role in establishing the DV axis of the trunk epidermis in embryos of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis. Pinhead and Admp exist in tandem in the genomes of various animals from arthropods to vertebrates. This genomic configuration is important for mutually exclusive expression of these genes, because Pinhead transcription directly disturbs the action of the Admp enhancer. Our data suggest that this dual negative regulatory mechanism is widely conserved in animals.

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