The Rho GTP exchange factor, Pebble (Pbl), long recognised as an essential activator of Rho during cytokinesis, also regulates mesoderm migration at gastrulation. Like other cell cycle components, pbl expression patterns broadly correlate with proliferative tissue. Surprisingly, in spite of its role in the early mesoderm, pbl is downregulated in the presumptive mesoderm before ventral furrow formation. Here, we show that this mesoderm-specific repression of pbl is dependent on the transcriptional repressor Snail (Sna). pbl repression was lost in sna mutants but was unaffected when Sna was ectopically expressed, showing that Sna is necessary, but not sufficient, for pbl repression. Using DamID, the first intron of pbl was identified as a Sna-binding region. Nine sites with the Sna-binding consensus motif CAGGT[GA] were identified in this intron. Mutating these to TAGGC[GA] abolished the ventral repression of pbl. Surprisingly, Sna-dependent repression of pbl was not essential for viability or fertility. Loss of repression did, however, increase the frequency of low-penetrance gastrulation defects. Consistent with this, expression of a pbl-GFP transgene in the presumptive mesoderm generated similar gastrulation defects. Finally, we show that a cluster of Snail-binding sites in the middle of the first intron of pbl orthologues is a conserved feature in the other 11 sequenced Drosophila species. We conclude that pbl levels are precisely regulated to ensure that there is enough protein available for its role in early mesoderm development but not so much as to inhibit the orderly progression of gastrulation.
- Rho GTP exchange factor