Caudal, a key developmental regulator, is a DPE-specific transcriptional factor

Tamar Juven-Gershon, Jer Yuan Hsu, James T. Kadonaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The regulation of gene transcription is critical for the proper development and growth of an organism. The transcription of protein-coding genes initiates at the RNA polymerase II core promoter, which is a diverse module that can be controlled by many different elements such as the TATA box and downstream core promoter element (DPE). To understand the basis for core promoter diversity, we explored potential biological functions of the DPE. We found that nearly all of the Drosophila homeotic (Hox) gene promoters, which lack TATA-box elements, contain functionally important DPE motifs that are conserved from Drosophila melanogaster to Drosophila virilis. We then discovered that Caudal, a sequence-specific transcription factor and key regulator of the Hox gene network, activates transcription with a distinct preference for the DPE relative to the TATA box. The specificity of Caudal activation for the DPE is particularly striking when a BREu core promoter motif is associated with the TATA box. These findings show that Caudal is a DPE-specific activator and exemplify how core promoter diversity can be used to establish complex regulatory networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2823-2830
Number of pages8
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number20
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • BRE
  • Caudal
  • Core promoter
  • DPE
  • Hox
  • RNA polymerase II transcription


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