Expression of the Drosophila Enhancer of split [E(spl)] genes, and their homologues in other species, is dependent on Notch activation. The seven E(spl) genes are clustered in a single complex and their functions overlap significantly; however, the individual genes have distinct patterns of expression. To investigate how this regulation is achieved and to find out whether there is shared or cross regulation between E(spl) genes, we have analysed the enhancer activity of sequences from the adjacent E(spl)mbeta, E(spl)mgamma and E(spl)mdelta genes and made comparisons to E(spl)m8. We find that although regulatory elements can be shared, most aspects of the expression of each individual gene are recapitulated by small (400-500 bp) evolutionarily conserved enhancers. Activated Notch or a Suppressor of Hairless-VP16 fusion are only sufficient to elicit transcription from the E(spl) enhancers in a subset of locations, indicating a requirement for other factors. In tissue culture cells, proneural proteins synergise with Suppressor of Hairless and Notch to promote expression from E(spl)mgamma and E(spl)m8, but this synergy is only observed in vivo with E(spl)m8. We conclude that additional factors besides the proneural proteins limit the response of E(spl)mgamma in vivo. In contrast to the other genes, E(spl)mbeta exhibits little response to proneural proteins and its high level of activity in the wing imaginal disc suggests that wing-specific factors cooperate with Notch to activate the E(spl)mbeta enhancer. These results demonstrate that Notch activity must be integrated with other transcriptional regulators and, since the activation of target genes is critical in determining the developmental consequences of Notch activity, provide a framework for understanding Notch function in different developmental contexts.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.