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The regulatory pathway from genes directly activated by maternal factors to muscle structural genes in ascidian embryos

Yu D, Oda-Ishii I, Kubo A, Satou Y
Development. 2019 Jan 23. pii: dev.173104. doi: 10.1242/dev.173104. [Epub ahead of print]
Striated muscle cells in the tail of ascidian tadpole larvae differentiate cell-autonomously. Although several key regulatory factors have been identified, the genetic regulatory pathway is not fully understood; comprehensive understanding of the regulatory pathway is essential for accurate modeling in order to deduce principles for gene regulatory network dynamics, and for comparative analysis on how ascidians have evolved the cell-autonomous gene regulatory mechanism. Here, we reveal regulatory interactions among three key regulatory factors, Zic-r.b, Tbx6-r.b and Mrf, and elucidate the mechanism by which these factors activate muscle structural genes. We reveal a cross-regulatory circuit among these regulatory factors, which maintains the expression of Tbx6-r.b and Mrf during gastrulation. Although these two factors combinatorially activate muscle structural genes in late-stage embryos, muscle structural genes are activated mainly by Tbx6-r.b before gastrulation. Time points when expression of muscle structural genes become first detectable are strongly correlated with the degree of Tbx6-r.b occupancy. Thus, the genetic pathway, starting with Tbx6-r.b and Zic-r.b, which are activated by maternal factors, and ending with expression of muscle structural genes, has been revealed.
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