Strongylocentrotus purpuratus Otx (SpOtx) is required simultaneously in sea urchin development for the activation of endo16 in the vegetal plate and for the activation of spec2a in the aboral ectoderm. Because Otx binding sites alone do not appear to be responsible for the spatially restricted expression of spec2a, additional DNA elements were sought. We show here that consensus Otx binding sites fused to basal promoters are sufficient to activate CAT reporter gene expression in all cell types, although expression in endomesoderm progenitors is enhanced. On the other hand, three non-Otx elements derived from the spec2a enhancer are needed together with Otx sites for specifically aboral ectoderm expression. A DNA element termed Y/CBF, lying just downstream from an Otx site within the spec2a enhancer, mediates general activation in the ectoderm. A second element lying between the Otx and Y/CBF sites, called OER, functions to prevent expression in the oral ectoderm. A third site, called ENR, overlapping another Otx site, is required to repress endoderm expression. Three distinct DNA binding proteins interact sequence specifically at the Y/CBF, OER, and ENR elements. The spec2a enhancer thus consists of closely linked activator and repressor elements that function collectively to cause expression of the spec2a gene in the aboral ectoderm.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.