The bx region enhancer, a distant cis-control element of the Drosophila Ubx gene and its regulation by hunchback and other segmentation genes

EMBO J. 1991 Jun;10(6):1415-25.


The Drosophila homeotic gene Ultrabithorax (Ubx) is regulated by complex mechanisms that specify the spatial domain, the timing and the activity of the gene in individual tissues and in individual cells. In early embryonic development, Ubx expression is controlled by segmentation genes turned on earlier in the developmental hierarchy. Correct Ubx expression depends on multiple regulatory sequences located outside the basal promoter. Here we report that a 500 bp DNA fragment from the bx region of the Ubx unit, approximately 30 kb away from the promoter, contains one of the distant regulatory elements (bx region enhancer, BRE). During early embryogenesis, this enhancer element activates the Ubx promoter in parasegments (PS) 6, 8, 10, and 12 and represses it in the anterior half of the embryo. The repressor of the anterior Ubx expression is the gap gene hunchback (hb). We show that the hb protein binds to the BRE element and that such binding is essential for hb repression in vivo, hb protein also binds to DNA fragments from abx and bxd, two other regulatory regions of the Ubx gene. We conclude that hb represses Ubx expression directly by binding to BRE and probably other Ubx regulatory elements. In addition, the BRE pattern requires input from other segmentation genes, among them tailless and fushi tarazu but not Krüppel and knirps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Homeodomain Proteins*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid*
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Transcription Factors*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ubx protein, Drosophila