Regulation of sperm gene expression by the GATA factor ELT-1

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Cell fate specification is mediated primarily through the expression of cell-type-specific genes. The regulatory pathway that governs the sperm/egg decision in the hermaphrodite germ line of Caenorhabditis elegans has been well characterized, but the transcription factors that drive these developmental programs remain unknown. We report the identification of ELT-1, a GATA transcription factor that specifies hypodermal fate in the embryo, as a regulator of sperm-specific transcription in the germ line. Computational analysis identified a conserved bipartite sequence element that is found almost exclusively in the promoters of a number of sperm genes. ELT-1 was recovered in a yeast one-hybrid screen for factors that bind to that sperm consensus site. In vitro assays defined the sperm consensus sequence as an optimal binding site for ELT-1. We determined that expression of elt-1 is elevated in the sperm-producing germ line, and that ELT-1 is required for sperm function. Deletion of the ELT-1 binding site from a sperm promoter abrogates sperm-specific expression of a reporter transgene. This work demonstrates a role for the ELT-1 transcription factor in sperm, and provides a critical link between the germ line sex determination program and gamete-specific gene expression. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




del Castillo-Olivares, A., Kulkarni, M., & Smith, H. E. (2009). Regulation of sperm gene expression by the GATA factor ELT-1. Developmental Biology, 333(2), 397–408.

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