The Drosophila Broad-Complex early gene directly regulates late gene transcription during the ecdysone-induced puffing cascade

Dev Biol. 1996 Dec 15;180(2):745-58. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1996.0343.


The ensemble of tissue-specific changes that drives Drosophila metamorphosis is initiated by the steroid hormone ecdysone and proceeds through a transcriptional cascade comprised of primary response transcriptional regulators and secondary response structural genes. The Broad-Complex (BR-C) primary response early gene is composed of several distinct genetic functions and encodes a family of related transcription factor isoforms. Our objective in this study was to determine whether individual BR-C isoforms directly regulate secondary response target genes. A cluster of 10 salivary gland-specific secondary response L71 late genes are dependent on the BR-C rbp+ genetic function. Transgenic animals expressing individual BR-C isoforms were tested for their ability to provide the BR-C rbp+ genetic function by monitoring the transcriptional activation of the L71 genes. We found that the BR-C Z1 isoforms could complement the transcriptional defects seen in rbp mutants but the Z2, Z3, and Z4 isoforms could not. We conclude that the BR-C rbp+ function is provided by the BR-C Z1 isoform in prepupal salivary glands. L71 gene rescue was restricted to the prepupal salivary gland, suggesting the involvement of additional factors in L71 gene regulation. Interestingly, we found that the overexpression of Z3 or Z4 isoforms in BR-C+ salivary glands repressed L71 expression, indicating that BR-C proteins might also function as transcriptional repressors. Molecular mapping and characterization of the regulatory sequences that control L71-6 expression revealed several Z1 isoform binding sites. Mutagenesis of these Z1 binding sites resulted in the failure to activate late gene expression in vivo when measured by transgenic reporter genes. We conclude that the BR-C early gene directly activates late gene transcription by interacting with late gene cis-acting regulatory elements and that this interaction is responsible for the temporal linkage of early and late ecdysone-induced gene expression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Base Sequence
  • Consensus Sequence
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila / embryology
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Ecdysone / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genes, Insect*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Metamorphosis, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Salivary Glands / embryology
  • Salivary Glands / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Br protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ecdysone