Pigment cell lineage-specific expression activity of the ascidian tyrosinase-related gene

Reiko Toyoda, Akiko Kasai, Shigeru Sato, Shuichi Wada, Hidetoshi Saiga, Kazuho Ikeo, Takashi Gojobori, Takaharu Numakunai, Hiroaki Yamamoto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Solitary ascidian tadpole larvae develop two types of black pigment cells in the major sensory organs of the brain. Such pigment cells have been demonstrated to express the melanogenic genes, tyrosinase and Tyrp/TRP (tyrosinase-related protein). To understand the genetic and developmental mechanisms underlying the differentiation of chordate pigment cells, we examined the function of the promoter region of Tyrp/TRP gene, an ascidian (Halocynthia roretzi) tyrosinase family gene. The expression of the gene in pigment cell lineage starts at the early-mid gastrula stages. To identify the transcriptional regulatory region of the gene allowing cell-type-specific expression, a deletion series of the HrTyrp 5′ flanking region fused to a lacZ reporter gene was constructed and microinjected into ascidian fertilized eggs. The region of 73 bp in HrTyrp was identified as sufficient for expression in pigment cell-precursors of tailbud stage embryos. It is noteworthy that there is no M-box element highly conserved in the promoters for vertebrate tyrosinase family genes such as tyrosinase, Tyrp1/TRP-1 and Tyrp2/TRP-2 (Dct). Although the regulatory system of ascidian pigment-cell development is likely to contain most factors critical to vertebrate pigment-cell development, there might be critical differences in the mode of regulation, such as the developmental timing of interactions of factors, proteins and genes, involved in pigment cell differentiation and pigmentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-69
Number of pages9
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 12 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • 3,4- dihydroxyphenilalanine
  • DOPA
  • DOPAchrome tautomerase
  • Dct
  • Melanin
  • Melanocyte
  • Microphthalmia
  • Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor
  • Mitf
  • Promoter
  • Tyr
  • Tyrosinase-related protein
  • Tyrp/TRP
  • tyrosinase
  • tyrosinase-related protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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