The Drosophila escargot (esg) gene encodes a C2-H2-type zinc finger protein that is expressed in the imaginal discs and histoblasts. In some esg mutants, the abdominal histoblasts become polyploid. It has therefore been suggested that the role of esg is to maintain diploidy of the imaginal cells. We show that esg encodes a DNA-binding protein with high affinity for G/ACAGGTG, the consensus-binding sequence for the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family of transcription factors (E2 box). This DNA-binding activity is essential for esg function in vivo as the strong embryonic lethal allele esg(VS8) is caused by an amino acid change within the zinc finger region, leading to reduced affinity for DNA. In cultured cells, a heterodimer of the bHLH proteins Scute and Daughterless activates transcription from promoters containing E2 boxes. The esg protein strongly inhibits this activation, suggesting that esg may regulate developmental processes dependent on bHLH proteins. In larvae, esg protein expressed by the heat shock promoter can rescue the polyploid phenotype of abdominal histoblasts, demonstrating that the phenotype is attributable to a loss of esg function. esg must be expressed continuously during the larval period for efficient rescue. Ectopic expression of esg in the salivary glands inhibits endoreplication of DNA. These results suggest that esg is involved in transcriptional inhibition of genes required for endoreplication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology