We have identified a short segment of the mouse Pax-6 gene 5' flanking region that is necessary and sufficient for reporter construct expression in components of the eye derived from non-neural ectoderm. This transcriptional control element has a highly conserved nucleotide sequence over 341 bp and is located approximately 3.5 kb upstream of the start-point for transcription from the most proximal promoter (PO) of the Pax-6 gene. The level of identity between the human and mouse Pax-6 genes in this region is 93%. When combined either with its natural promoter or a heterologous minimal promoter, this element directs reporter construct expression to a region of surface ectoderm overlying the optic cup beginning at E8.5-9.0 (12-14 somites). Subsequently, expression is restricted to the lens (primarily the lens epithelium) and the corneal epithelium. This element will provide an important tool in future transgenic analyses of lens formation and will allow identification of transcription factors with a central function in lens development.
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