Expression of the Caenorhabditis elegans Hox gene lin-39 begins in the embryo and continues in multiple larval cells, including the P cell lineages that generate ventral cord neurons (VCNs) and vulval precursor cells (VPCs). lin-39 is regulated by several factors and by Wnt and Ras signaling pathways; however, no cis-acting sites mediating lin-39 regulation have been identified. Here, we describe three elements controlling lin-39 expression: a 338-bp upstream fragment that directs embryonic expression in P5-P8 and their descendants in the larva, a 247-bp intronic region sufficient for VCN expression, and a 1.3-kb upstream cis-regulatory module that drives expression in the VPC P6.p in a Ras-dependent manner. Three trans-acting factors regulate expression via the 1.3-kb element. A single binding site for the ETS factor LIN-1 mediates repression in VPCs other than P6.p; however, loss of LIN-1 decreases expression in P6.p. Therefore, LIN-1 acts both negatively and positively on lin-39 in different VPCs. The Forkhead domain protein LIN-31 also acts positively on lin-39 in P6.p via this module. Finally, LIN-39 itself binds to this element, suggesting that LIN-39 autoregulates its expression in P6.p. Therefore, we have begun to unravel the cis-acting sites regulating lin-39 Hox gene expression and have shown that lin-39 is a direct target of the Ras pathway acting via LIN-1 and LIN-31.
- C. elegans
- Gene expression