cis-Regulatory sequences driving the expression of the Hbox12 homeobox-containing gene in the presumptive aboral ectoderm territory of the Paracentrotus lividus sea urchin embryo. uri icon


  • Embryonic development is coordinated by networks of evolutionary conserved regulatory genes encoding transcription factors and components of cell signalling pathways. In the sea urchin embryo, a number of genes encoding transcription factors display territorial restricted expression. Among these, the zygotic Hbox12 homeobox gene is transiently transcribed in a limited number of cells of the animal-lateral half of the early Paracentrotus lividus embryo, whose descendants will constitute part of the ectoderm territory. To obtain insights on the regulation of Hbox12 expression, we have explored the cis-regulatory apparatus of the gene. In this paper, we show that the intergenic region of the tandem Hbox12 repeats drives GFP expression in the presumptive aboral ectoderm and that a 234 bp fragment, defined aboral ectoderm (AE) module, accounts for the restricted expression of the transgene. Within this module, a consensus sequence for a Sox factor and the binding of the Otx activator are both required for correct Hbox12 gene expression. Spatial restriction to the aboral ectoderm is achieved by a combination of different repressive sequence elements. Negative sequence elements necessary for repression in the endomesoderm map within the most upstream 60 bp region and nearby the Sox binding site. Strikingly, a Myb-like consensus is necessary for repression in the oral ectoderm, while down-regulation at the gastrula stage depends on a GA-rich region. These results suggest a role for Hbox12 in aboral ectoderm specification and represent our first attempt in the identification of the gene regulatory circuits involved in this process.

publication date

  • September 15, 2008