Comparative genomics is a promising approach for identifying regulatory elements governing the unique spatio-temporal expression patterns of morphogenetic genes. Conserved noncoding genomic sequences are candidate regulatory elements. Here we performed a survey for conserved noncoding elements (CNE) nested within the SALL1 gene; mutations in this gene result in the Townes-Brocks syndrome. A comparison of the genomic sequence between humans and chicken revealed five CNE. Genomic fragments corresponding to each CNE were inserted into reporter cassettes consisting of eGFP cDNA and a minimal promoter. These constructs were electroporated into chick embryos during gastrula, neurula, and pharyngula stages. Among the five CNE that were examined, one 443 bp CNE exhibited tissue-specific enhancer activity. At the neurula stage, the eGFP signal was visualized in the prosencephalon. At the pharyngula stage, the eGFP signal was confined within the anterior neural ridge, which represents one of the morphogenetic centers regulating the patterning of the anterior neural plate. This report identifies, for the first time, an enhancer element of SALL1.
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