Transcription initiates at the core promoter, which contains distinct core promoter elements. Here, we highlight the complexity of transcriptional regulation by outlining the effect of core promoter-dependent regulation on embryonic development and the proper function of an organism. We demonstrate in vivo the importance of the downstream core promoter element (DPE) in complex heart formation in Drosophila. Pioneering a novel approach utilizing both CRISPR and nascent transcriptomics, we show the effects of mutating a single core promoter element within the natural context. Specifically, we targeted the downstream core promoter element (DPE) of the endogenous tin gene, encoding the Tinman transcription factor, a homologue of human NKX2-5 associated with congenital heart diseases. The 7bp substitution mutation results in massive perturbation of the Tinman regulatory network orchestrating dorsal musculature, manifested as physiological and anatomical changes in the cardiac system, impaired specific activity features and significantly compromised viability of adult flies. Thus, a single motif can have a critical impact on embryogenesis and, in the case of DPE, functional heart formation.

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