Similarity of DNA binding and transcriptional regulation by Caenorhabditis elegans MAB-3 and Drosophila melanogaster DSX suggests conservation of sex determining mechanisms

Woelsung Yi, David Zarkower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although most animals occur in two sexes, the molecular pathways they employ to control sexual development vary considerably. The only known molecular similarity between phyla in sex determination is between two genes, mab-3 from C. elegans, and doublesex (dsx) from Drosophila. Both genes contain a DNA binding motif called a DM domain and they regulate similar aspects of sexual development, including yolk protein synthesis and peripheral nervous system differentiation. Here we show that MAB-3, like the DSX proteins, is a direct regulator of yolk protein gene transcription. We show that despite containing different numbers of DM domains MAB-3 and DSX bind to similar DNA sequences, mab-3 mutations deregulate vitellogenin synthesis at the level of transcription, resulting in expression in both sexes, and the vitellogenin genes have potential MAB-3 binding sites upstream of their transcriptional start sites. MAB-3 binds to a site in the vit-2 promoter in vitro, and this site is required in vivo to prevent transcription of a vit-2 reporter construct in males, suggesting that MAB-3 is a direct repressor of vitellogenin transcription. This is the first direct link between the sex determination regulatory pathway and sex-specific structural genes in C. elegans, and it suggests that nematodes and insects use at least some of the same mechanisms to control sexual development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-881
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopment
Volume126
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1999

Keywords

  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • DSX
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • MAB-3
  • Sex determination
  • Transcription
  • Vitellogenin

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