The molecular and genetic characterization of the MADS box transcription factor Drosophila MEF2

Brenda Jean Lilly, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The myocyte enhancer factor (MEF)-2 family of transcription factors has been implicated in the regulation of muscle transcription in vertebrates, but the precise position of these regulators within the genetic hierarchy leading to myogenesis is unclear. The MEF2 proteins bind to a conserved A/T-rich DNA sequence present in numerous muscle-specific genes, and they are expressed in the cells of the developing somites and in the embryonic heart at the onset of muscle formation in mammals. The MEF2 genes belong to the MADS box family of transcription factors, which control specific programs of gene expression in species ranging from yeast to humans. Each MEF2 family member contains two highly conserved protein motifs, the MADS domain and the MEF2-specific domain, which together provide the MEF2 factors with their unique DNA binding and dimerization properties. In an effort to further define the function of the MEF2 proteins, and to evaluate the degree of conservation shared among these factors and the phylogenetic pathways that they regulate, we sought to identify MEF2 family members in other species. In Drosophila, a homolog of the vertebrate MEF2 genes was identified and termed D-mef2. The D-MEF2 protein binds to the consensus MEF2 element and can activate transcription through tandem copies of that site. During Drosophila embryogenesis, D-MEF2 is specific to the mesoderm germ layer of the developing embryo and becomes expressed in all muscle cell types within the embryo. The role of D-mef2 in Drosophila embryogenesis was examined by generating a loss-of-function mutation in the D-mef2 gene. In embryos homozygous for this mutant allele, somatic, cardiac, and visceral muscles fail to differentiate, but precursors of these myogenic lineages are normally specified and positioned. These results demonstrate that different muscle cell types share a common myogenic differentiation program controlled by MEF2 and suggest that this program has been conserved from Drosophila to mammals.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Genetics

Recommended Citation

Lilly, Brenda Jean, "The molecular and genetic characterization of the MADS box transcription factor Drosophila MEF2" (1995). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9527850.