eLife (Dec 2017)

Conserved noncoding transcription and core promoter regulatory code in early Drosophila development

  • Philippe J Batut,
  • Thomas R Gingeras

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6


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Multicellular development is driven by regulatory programs that orchestrate the transcription of protein-coding and noncoding genes. To decipher this genomic regulatory code, and to investigate the developmental relevance of noncoding transcription, we compared genome-wide promoter activity throughout embryogenesis in 5 Drosophila species. Core promoters, generally not thought to play a significant regulatory role, in fact impart restrictions on the developmental timing of gene expression on a global scale. We propose a hierarchical regulatory model in which core promoters define broad windows of opportunity for expression, by defining a range of transcription factors from which they can receive regulatory inputs. This two-tiered mechanism globally orchestrates developmental gene expression, including extremely widespread noncoding transcription. The sequence and expression specificity of noncoding RNA promoters are evolutionarily conserved, implying biological relevance. Overall, this work introduces a hierarchical model for developmental gene regulation, and reveals a major role for noncoding transcription in animal development.