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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Complexity of cis-regulatory organization of six3a during forebrain and eye development in zebrafish

Chung-Hao Chao12, Horng-Dar Wang2 and Chiou-Hwa Yuh134*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Molecular and Genomic Medicine, National Health Research Institutes, Zhunan Town, Miaoli County, Taiwan

2 College of Life Science and Institute of Biotechnology, National Tsing-Hua University, HsinChu, Taiwan

3 College of Life Science and Institute of Bioinformatics and Structural Biology, National Tsing-Hua University, HsinChu, Taiwan

4 Department of Biological Science & Technology, National Chiao Tung University, HsinChu, Taiwan

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:35  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-35

Published: 26 March 2010



Six3a belongs to the SIX family of homeodomain proteins and is expressed in the most anterior neural plate at the beginning of neurogenesis in various species. Though the function of Six3a as a crucial regulator of eye and forebrain development has been thoroughly investigated, the transcriptional regulation of six3a is not well understood.


To elucidate the transcriptional regulation of six3a, we performed an in vivo reporter assay. Alignment of the 21-kb region surrounding the zebrafish six3a gene with the analogous region from different species identified several conserved non-coding modules. Transgenesis in zebrafish identified two enhancer elements and one suppressor. The D module drives the GFP reporter in the forebrain and eyes at an early stage, while the A module is responsible for the later expression. The A module also works as a repressor suppressing ectopic expression from the D module. Mutational analysis further minimized the A module to four highly conserved elements and the D module to three elements. Using electrophoresis mobility shift assays, we also provided evidence for the presence of DNA-binding proteins in embryonic nuclear extracts. The transcription factors that may occupy those highly conserved elements were also predicted.


This study provides a comprehensive view of six3a transcription regulation during brain and eye development and offers an opportunity to establish the gene regulatory networks underlying neurogenesis in zebrafish.