The dorsal morphogen is a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein that interacts with a long-range repression element in Drosophila

Cell. 1991 Jan 25;64(2):439-46. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(91)90651-e.


A gradient of the maternal morphogen dorsal (dl) establishes dorsal-ventral (D-V) polarity in the early Drosophila embryo. The dl concentration gradient is initiated by regulated nuclear transport, and only protein that enters nuclei is active in the D-V patterning process. Here we show that dl is a DNA-binding protein that specifically interacts with distal sequences of the zerknüllt (zen) promoter, one of the genetic targets of the morphogen. These zen sequences have the properties of a silencer element and can act over long distances to repress the expression of a heterologous promoter. The dl protein recognizes a sequence motif similar to that of the mammalian transcriptional activator NF-kappa B, which was shown to contain extensive homology with dl and the oncoprotein rel. We present evidence that the DNA-binding activity of the dl protein is mediated by the region of homology (the rel domain) conserved in the rel and NF-kappa B proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila / embryology
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Morphogenesis
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Restriction Mapping


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Oligonucleotide Probes