CENTRO DE BIOLOGÍA MOLECULAR SEVERO OCHOACaptura de pantalla 2022 09 14 a las 10.27.10    

Transcription factors and heterochromatin formation in Drosophila

Research summary:

Transcription factors are known to be proteins capable of binding to the DNA to regulate the transcription of downstream genes. They have been considered to be key players in the development of Drosophila melanogaster, as they act upstream of many gene regulatory cascades. They function by binding to the DNA in promotors and/or enhancers activating or repressing their target genes.  For many years, we have focused our attention in two different types of transcription factors: the Hox-TALE family of proteins Homothorax (hth)/Extradenticle (exd) and the Pax family of proteins Eyegone (eyg)/Twin of eyegone (toe). Both have homologs along the Animal Kingdom and many different functions have been described for them in Drosophila as well as in vertebrates. Some years ago we described for the first time an unexpected role for hth during  the early pre-blastodermic divisions in Drosophila. We were able to show that Hth binds to satellite sequences facilitating their transcription. This transcription is essential for constitutive heterochromatin formation, that is, for correct assembly of centromeres and telomeres.  In the absence of Hth, the rapid syncytial divisions do not occur properly. We were also able to show that Eyg/Toe, known transriptional repressors during Drosophila development, regulate their target gene wingless (wg) by forming a closed heterochromatin like structure in its eye-enhancer. In the past months it has been shown that many Pax family members are able to bind to satellite sequences in mouse culture cells. All together this results open new and exciting avenues in the mode of action of transcription factors during development that we are currently investigating at the cellular and molecular level.


Early Drosophila embryo. a-b) Stained with anti-HP1 (red) and topro3 (blue) to stain the nuclei. c-d) Stained with anti-PH3 (green) and topro3 (blue). a, c) Wild type embryo. Nuclei divide synchronously inside the yolk. b, d) Embryo mutant for eyegone. The embryo shows a clear asynchrony in the early divisions.


* For external calls please dial 34 91196 followed by the extension number
Last nameNameLaboratoryExt.*e-mailProfessional category
Azpiazu TorresNatalia4224697nazpiazu(at)cbm.csic.esE. Investigadores Científicos de Organismos Públicos
Pérez CivantosNerea4224697Estudiante
Vega EsquinasSilvia4224697silvia.vega(at)cbm.csic.esM1

Relevant publications:

  • Azpiazu, N. and M. Frasch (1993). tinman and bagpipe: Two homeo box genes that determine cell fates in the dorsal mesoderm of Drosophila. Genes and Development 7:1325-1340.
  • Azpiazu, N., Lawrence, P. A., Vincent, J-P., and M. Frasch (1996). Segmentation and specification of the Drosophila mesoderm. Genes and Development 10:3183-3194
  • Mercader, N., Leonardo, E., Azpiazu, N., Serrano, A., Morata, G., Martinez, C., and M. Torres (1999). Conserved regulation of proximodistal limb axis development by Meis1/Hth. Nature 402: 425-429.
  • Azpiazu, N., and G. Morata (2000). Function and regulation of homothorax in the wing imaginal disc of Drosophila. Development 127: 2685-2693.
  • Aldaz, S., Morata, G., and N. Azpiazu (2003). The Pax-homeobox gene eyegone is involved in the subdivision of the thorax of Drosophila. Development 130: 4473-4482.
  • Aldaz, S., Morata, G., and N. Azpiazu (2005). Patterning function of homothorax/extradenticle in the thorax of Drosophila. Development 132: 439-446.
  • Salvany, L., Aldaz, S., Corsetti, E., and N. Azpiazu (2009). A new role for hth in the early pre-blastodermic divisions in Drosophila. Cell Cycle 8: 2748-2755.
  • Salvany, L., Requena, D., and N. Azpiazu (2012). Functional association between Eyegone and HP1a mediates wingless transcriptional repression  during development. Molecular and Cellular Biology 32: 2407-2415.
  • Corsetti, E., and N. Azpiazu (2013). Functional dissection of the splice variants of the Drosophila gene homothorax (hth). Developmental biology, 384: 72-82
  • Cantero, W. and N. Azpiazu (2015). The Hox/TALE transcription factor Homothorax functions to assemble constitutive heterochromatin during Drosophila embryogenesis. PLoS ONE 10(3):e0120662.
  • Bloom-Dahl, D., and N. Azpiazu (2018). The Pax protein Eyegone (Eyg) interacts with the pi-RNA component Aubergine (Aub) and controls egg chamber development in Drosophila. Developmental Biology 434(2): 267-277

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