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Study of Cis-regulatory Elements in the Ascidian Ciona intestinalis

[ Vol. 14 , Issue. 1 ]


Steven Q. Irvine   Pages 56 - 67 ( 12 )


The ascidian (sea squirt) C. intestinalis has become an important model organism for the study of cisregulation. This is largely due to the technology that has been developed for assessing cis-regulatory activity through the use of transient reporter transgenes introduced into fertilized eggs. This technique allows the rapid and inexpensive testing of endogenous or altered DNA for regulatory activity in vivo. This review examines evidence that C. intestinalis cisregulatory elements are located more closely to coding regions than in other model organisms. I go on to compare the organization of cis-regulatory elements and conserved non-coding sequences in Ciona, mammals, and other deuterostomes for three representative C.intestinalis genes, Pax6, FoxAa, and the DlxA-B cluster, along with homologs in the other species. These comparisons point out some of the similarities and differences between cis-regulatory elements and their study in the various model organisms. Finally, I provide illustrations of how C. intestinalis lends itself to detailed study of the structure of cis-regulatory elements, which have led, and promise to continue to lead, to important insights into the fundamentals of transcriptional regulation.


Chordate, tunicate, amphioxus, transgenics, reporter, transcription, promoters, enhancers


Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, 120 Flagg Road, Kingston, Rhode Island 02840, USA.

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