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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Regulation of metallothionein gene transcription. Identification of upstream regulatory elements and transcription factors responsible for cell-specific expression of the metallothionein genes from Caenorhabditis elegans.

Metallothioneins are small, cysteine-rich proteins that function in metal detoxification and homeostasis. Metallothionein transcription is controlled by cell-specific factors, as well as developmentally modulated and metal-responsive pathways. By using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system, the mechanism that controls cell-specific metallothionein transcription in vivo was investigated. The inducible expression of the C. elegans metallothionein genes, mtl-1 and mtl-2, occurs exclusively in intestinal cells. Sequence comparisons of these genes with other C. elegans intestinal cell-specific genes identified multiple repeats of GATA transcription factor-binding sites (i.e. GATA elements). In vivo deletion and site-directed mutation analyses confirm that one GATA element in mtl-1 and two in mtl-2 are required for transcription. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays show that the C. elegans GATA transcription factor ELT-2 specifically binds to these elements. Ectopic expression of ELT-2 in non-intestinal cells of C. elegans activates mtl-2 transcription in these cells. Likewise, mtl-2 is not expressed in nematodes in which elt-2 has been disrupted. These results indicate that cell-specific transcription of the C. elegans metallothionein genes is regulated by the binding of ELT-2 to GATA elements in these promoters. Furthermore, a model is proposed where ELT-2 constitutively activates metallothionein expression; however, a second metal-responsive factor prevents transcription in the absence of metals.[1]


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