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1.  Identifying novel genes in C. elegans using SAGE tags 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:96.
Despite extensive efforts devoted to predicting protein-coding genes in genome sequences, many bona fide genes have not been found and many existing gene models are not accurate in all sequenced eukaryote genomes. This situation is partly explained by the fact that gene prediction programs have been developed based on our incomplete understanding of gene feature information such as splicing and promoter characteristics. Additionally, full-length cDNAs of many genes and their isoforms are hard to obtain due to their low level or rare expression. In order to obtain full-length sequences of all protein-coding genes, alternative approaches are required.
In this project, we have developed a method of reconstructing full-length cDNA sequences based on short expressed sequence tags which is called sequence tag-based amplification of cDNA ends (STACE). Expressed tags are used as anchors for retrieving full-length transcripts in two rounds of PCR amplification. We have demonstrated the application of STACE in reconstructing full-length cDNA sequences using expressed tags mined in an array of serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) of C. elegans cDNA libraries. We have successfully applied STACE to recover sequence information for 12 genes, for two of which we found isoforms. STACE was used to successfully recover full-length cDNA sequences for seven of these genes.
The STACE method can be used to effectively reconstruct full-length cDNA sequences of genes that are under-represented in cDNA sequencing projects and have been missed by existing gene prediction methods, but their existence has been suggested by short sequence tags such as SAGE tags.
PMCID: PMC3017025  PMID: 21143975
2.  Characterization of the octamer, a cis-regulatory element that modulates excretory cell gene-expression in Caenorhabditis elegans 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:19.
We have previously demonstrated that the POU transcription factor CEH-6 is required for driving aqp-8 expression in the C. elegans excretory (canal) cell, an osmotic regulatory organ that is functionally analogous to the kidney. This transcriptional regulation occurs through a CEH-6 binding to a cis-regulatory element called the octamer (ATTTGCAT), which is located in the aqp-8 promoter.
Here, we further characterize octamer driven transcription in C. elegans. First, we analyzed the positional requirements of the octamer. To do so, we assayed the effects on excretory cell expression by placing the octamer within the well-characterized promoter of vit-2. Second, using phylogenetic footprinting between three Caenorhabditis species, we identified a set of 165 genes that contain conserved upstream octamers in their promoters. Third, we used promoter::GFP fusions to examine the expression patterns of 107 of the 165 genes. This analysis demonstrated that conservation of octamers in promoters increases the likelihood that the gene is expressed in the excretory cell. Furthermore, we found that the sequences flanking the octamers may have functional importance. Finally, we altered the octamer using site-directed mutagenesis. Thus, we demonstrated that some nucleotide substitutions within the octamer do not affect the expression pattern of nearby genes, but change their overall expression was changed. Therefore, we have expanded the core octamer to include flanking regions and variants of the motif.
Taken together, we have demonstrated that octamer-containing regions are associated with excretory cell expression of several genes that have putative roles in osmoregulation. Moreover, our analysis of the octamer sequence and its sequence variants could aid in the identification of additional genes that are expressed in the excretory cell and that may also be regulated by CEH-6.
PMCID: PMC2841177  PMID: 20211011

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