Bmp7 is expressed in numerous tissues throughout development and is required for morphogenesis of the eye, hindlimb and kidney. In this study we show that the majority if not all of the cis-regulatory sequence governing expression at these anatomical sites during development is present in approximately 20 kb surrounding exon 1. In eye, limb and kidney, multiple distinct enhancer elements drive Bmp7 expression within each organ. In the eye, the elements driving expression in the pigmented epithelium and iris are spatially separated. In the kidney, Bmp7 expression in collecting ducts and nephron progenitors is driven by separate enhancer elements. Similarly, limb mesenchyme and apical ectodermal ridge expression are governed by separate elements. Although enhancers for pigmented epithelium, nephrogenic mesenchyme and apical ectodermal ridge are distributed across the approximately 20 kb region, an element of approximately 480 base pairs within intron 1 governs expression within the developing iris, collecting duct system of the kidney and limb mesenchyme. This element is remarkably conserved both in sequence and position in the Bmp7 locus between different vertebrates, ranging from Xenopus tropicalis to Homo sapiens, demonstrating that there is strong selective pressure for Bmp7 expression at these tissue sites. Furthermore, we show that the frog enhancer functions appropriately in transgenic mice. Interestingly, the intron 1 element cannot be found in the Bmp7 genes of vertebrates such as Danio rerio and Takifugu rubripes indicating that this modification of the Bmp7 gene might have arisen during the adaptation from aquatic to terrestrial life. Mutational analysis demonstrates that the enhancer activity of the intron 1 element is entirely dependent on the presence of a 10 base pair site within the intron 1 enhancer containing a predicted binding site for the FOXD3 transcription factor. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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