Yin and yang during development

How competition for DNA binding regulates transcription

How does an embryo know when it’s time to activate its DNA? It turns out that it’s all about competition.

The Vastenhouw Lab collaborated with the groups of Andrej Shevchenko at the MPI-CBG and Vasily Zaburdaev at the Max Planck Institute of the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS) to quantitatively address a long-standing question in developmental biology: How does an embryo determine when to start using its own genetic information?

Upon fertilization, embryos rely on what their mom provided them with in the oocyte. It is only after some time that they start to use their own genome and take control over their fate. The Vastenhouw Lab now discovered that the time of this important event is determined by a competition for DNA binding between proteins that repress transcription, and ones that activate it. “What it all boils down to is a yin and yang during early development”, says Shai Joseph, first author of the publication that presents the discovery.

In addition to providing mechanistic insight in the activation of transcription during development, competition for DNA binding might be a general mechanism that is used to regulate transcription throughout development.



Original Paper

Shai R. Joseph, Máté Pálfy, Lennart Hilbert, Mukesh Kumar, Jens Karschau, Vasily Zaburdaev, Andrej Shevchenko, and Nadine L. Vastenhouw
Competition between histone and transcription factor binding regulates the onset of transcription in zebrafish embryos
eLife, 20 April 2017