Critical developmental control genes sometimes contain "shadow" enhancers that can be located in remote positions, including the introns of neighboring genes . They nonetheless produce patterns of gene expression that are the same as or similar to those produced by more proximal primary enhancers. It was suggested that shadow enhancers help foster robustness in gene expression in response to environmental or genetic perturbations [2, 3]. We critically tested this hypothesis by employing a combination of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) recombineering and quantitative confocal imaging methods [2, 4]. Evidence is presented that the snail gene is regulated by a distal shadow enhancer located within a neighboring locus. Removal of the proximal primary enhancer does not significantly perturb snail function, including the repression of neurogenic genes and formation of the ventral furrow during gastrulation at normal temperatures. However, at elevated temperatures, there is sporadic loss of snail expression and coincident disruptions in gastrulation. Similar defects are observed at normal temperatures upon reductions in the levels of Dorsal, a key activator of snail expression (reviewed in ). These results suggest that shadow enhancers represent a novel mechanism of canalization whereby complex developmental processes "bring about one definite end-result regardless of minor variations in conditions" .
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