Essential roles for GATA factors in the development of endoderm have been reported in various animals. A Drosophila GATA factor gene, serpent (srp, dGATAb, ABF), is expressed in the prospective endoderm, and loss of srp activity causes transformation of the prospective endoderm into ectodermal foregut and hindgut, indicating that srp acts as a selector gene to specify the developmental fate of the endoderm. While srp is expressed in the endoderm only during early stages, it activates a subsequent GATA factor gene, dGATAe, and the latter continues to be expressed specifically in the endoderm throughout life. dGATAe activates various functional genes in the differentiated endodermal midgut. An analogous mode of regulation has been reported in Caenorhabditis elegans, in which a pair of GATA genes, end-1/3, specifies endodermal fate, and a downstream pair of GATA genes, elt-2/7, activates genes in the differentiated endoderm. Functional homology of GATA genes in nature is apparently extendable to vertebrates, because endodermal GATA genes of C. elegans and Drosophila induce endoderm development in Xenopus ectoderm. These findings strongly imply evolutionary conservation of the roles of GATA factors in the endoderm across the protostomes and the deuterostomes.
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