2015 Volume 91 Issue 2 Pages 33-51
Transcriptional control of gene expression is one of the most important regulatory systems in animal development. Specific gene expression is basically determined by combinatorial regulation mediated by multiple sequence-specific transcription factors. The decoding of animal genomes has provided an opportunity for us to systematically examine gene regulatory networks consisting of successive layers of control of gene expression. It remains to be determined to what extent combinatorial regulation encoded in gene regulatory networks can explain spatial and temporal gene-expression patterns. The ascidian Ciona intestinalis is one of the animals in which the gene regulatory network has been most extensively studied. In this species, most specific gene expression patterns in the embryo can be explained by combinations of upstream regulatory genes encoding transcription factors and signaling molecules. Systematic scrutiny of gene expression patterns and regulatory interactions at the cellular resolution have revealed incomplete parts of the network elucidated so far, and have identified novel regulatory genes and novel regulatory mechanisms.