GENE REGULATION: Single-base pair differences in a shared motif determine differentialRhodopsinexpression

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Abstract

The final identity and functional properties of a neuron are specified by terminal differentiation genes, which are controlled by specific motifs in compact regulatory regions. To determine how these sequences integrate inputs from transcription factors that specify cell types, we compared the regulatory mechanism ofDrosophila Rhodopsingenes that are expressed in subsets of photoreceptors to that of phototransduction genes that are expressed broadly, in all photoreceptors. Both sets of genes share an 11-base pair (bp) activator motif. Broadly expressed genes contain a palindromic version that mediates expression in all photoreceptors. In contrast, eachRhodopsinexhibits characteristic single-bp substitutions that break the symmetry of the palindrome and generate activator or repressor motifs critical for restricting expression to photoreceptor subsets. Sensory neuron subtypes can therefore evolve through single-bp changes in short regulatory motifs, allowing the discrimination of a wide spectrum of stimuli.

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