Information Processing at the foxa Node of the Sea Urchin Endomesoderm Specification Network

Eric H. Davidson, Smadar Ben-Tabou De-Leon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The foxa regulatory gene is of central importance for endoderm specification across Bilateria, and this gene lies at an essential node of the well-characterized sea urchin endomesoderm gene regulatory network (GRN). Here we experimentally dissect the cis-regulatory system that controls the complex pattern of foxa expression in these embryos. Four separate cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) cooperate to control foxa expression in different spatial domains of the endomesoderm, and at different times. A detailed mutational analysis revealed the inputs to each of these cis-regulatory modules. The complex and dynamic expression of foxa is regulated by a combination of repressors, a permissive switch, and multiple activators. A mathematical kinetic model was applied to study the dynamic response of foxa cis-regulatory modules to transient inputs. This study shed light on the mesoderm–endoderm fate decision and provides a functional explanation, in terms of the genomic regulatory code, for the spatial and temporal expression of a key developmental control gene.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10103-10108
Number of pages6
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cis-regulatory analysis
  • Embryonic development
  • Gene regulatory networks
  • Mathematical modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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