Identification of Early Zygotic Genes in the Yellow Fever Mosquito Aedes aegypti and Discovery of a Motif Involved in Early Zygotic Genome Activation
Biedler, James K.
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During early embryogenesis the zygotic genome is transcriptionally silent and all mRNAs present are of maternal origin. The maternal-zygotic transition marks the time over which embryogenesis changes its dependence from maternal RNAs to zygotically transcribed RNAs. Here we present the first systematic investigation of early zygotic genes (EZGs) in a mosquito species and focus on genes involved in the onset of transcription during 2–4 hr. We used transcriptome sequencing to identify the “pure” (without maternal expression) EZGs by analyzing transcripts from four embryonic time ranges of 0–2, 2–4, 4–8, and 8–12 hr, which includes the time of cellular blastoderm formation and up to the start of gastrulation. Blast of 16,789 annotated transcripts vs. the transcriptome reads revealed evidence for 63 (P<0.001) and 143 (P<0.05) nonmaternally derived transcripts having a significant increase in expression at 2–4 hr. One third of the 63 EZG transcripts do not have predicted introns compared to 10% of all Ae. aegypti genes. We have confirmed by RT-PCR that zygotic transcription starts as early as 2–3 hours. A degenerate motif VBRGGTA was found to be overrepresented in the upstream sequences of the identified EZGs using a motif identification software called SCOPE. We find evidence for homology between this motif and the TAGteam motif found in Drosophila that has been implicated in EZG activation. A 38 bp sequence in the proximal upstream sequence of a kinesin light chain EZG (KLC2.1) contains two copies of the mosquito motif. This sequence was shown to support EZG transcription by luciferase reporter assays performed on injected early embryos, and confers early zygotic activity to a heterologous promoter from a divergent mosquito species. The results of these studies are consistent with the model of early zygotic genome activation via transcriptional activators, similar to what has been found recently in Drosophila.