Core Promoter Functions in the Regulation of Gene Expression of Drosophila Dorsal Target Genes [Developmental Biology]

March 14th, 2014 by Zehavi, Y., Kuznetsov, O., Ovadia-Shochat, A., Juven-Gershon, T.

Developmental processes are highly dependent on transcriptional regulation by RNA polymerase II. The RNA polymerase II core promoter is the ultimate target of a multitude of transcription factors that control transcription initiation. Core promoters consist of core promoter motifs, e.g. the Inr (initiator), TATA box and DPE (downstream core promoter element), which confer specific properties to the core promoter. Here, we explored the importance of core promoter functions in the dorsal-ventral developmental gene regulatory network. This network includes multiple genes that are activated by different nuclear concentrations of Dorsal, an NF κB-homolog transcription factor, along the dorsal-ventral axis. We show that over two thirds of Dorsal target genes contain DPE sequence motifs, which is significantly higher than the proportion of DPE-containing promoters in Drosophila genes. We demonstrate that multiple Dorsal target genes are evolutionarily conserved and functionally dependent on the DPE. Furthermore, we have analyzed the activation of key Dorsal target genes by Dorsal, as well as by another Rel family transcription factor, Relish, and the dependence of their activation on the DPE motif. Using hybrid enhancer-promoter constructs in Drosophila cells and embryo extracts, we have demonstrated that the core promoter composition is an important determinant of transcriptional activity of Dorsal target genes. Taken together, our results provide evidence for the importance of core promoter composition in the regulation of Dorsal target genes.