A regulatory code for neurogenic gene expression in the Drosophila embryo


  • M. Markstein
  • R.P. Zinzen
  • P. Markstein
  • K.P. Yee
  • A. Erives
  • A. Stathopoulos
  • M. Levine


  • Development


  • Development 131 (10): 2387-2394


  • Bioinformatics methods have identified enhancers that mediate restricted expression in the Drosophila embryo. However, only a small fraction of the predicted enhancers actually work when tested in vivo. In the present study, co-regulated neurogenic enhancers that are activated by intermediate levels of the Dorsal regulatory gradient are shown to contain several shared sequence motifs. These motifs permitted the identification of new neurogenic enhancers with high precision: five out of seven predicted enhancers direct restricted expression within ventral regions of the neurogenic ectoderm. Mutations in some of the shared motifs disrupt enhancer function, and evidence is presented that the Twist and Su(H) regulatory proteins are essential for the specification of the ventral neurogenic ectoderm prior to gastrulation. The regulatory model of neurogenic gene expression defined in this study permitted the identification of a neurogenic enhancer in the distant Anopheles genome. We discuss the prospects for deciphering regulatory codes that link primary DNA sequence information with predicted patterns of gene expression.