About us

The Levine Lab studies transcriptional regulation in Drosophila melanogaster and Ciona intestinalis



Visualization of Transvection in Living Drosophila Embryos

mike levine princeton

How remote enhancers interact with appropriate target genes persists as a central mystery in gene regulation. Here, we exploit the properties of transvection to explore enhancer-promoter communication between homologous chromosomes in living Drosophila embryos. We successfully visualized the activation of an MS2-tagged reporter gene by a defined developmental enhancer located in trans on the other homolog. This trans-homolog activation depends on insulator DNAs, which increase the stability—but not the frequency—of homolog pairing. A pair of heterotypic insulators failed to mediate transvection, raising the possibility that insulator specificity underlies the formation of chromosomal loop domains. Moreover, we found that a shared enhancer co-activates separate PP7 and MS2 reporter genes in cis and in trans. Transvecting alleles weakly compete with one another, raising the possibility that they share a common pool of the transcription machinery. We propose that transvecting alleles form a trans-homolog “hub,” which serves as a scaffold for the accumulation of transcription complexes.

Lim, Heist, Levine and Fukaya. Mol Cell  2018.

Comprehensive single-cell transcriptome lineages of a proto-vertebrate


Ascidian embryos highlight the importance of cell lineages in animal development. As simple proto-vertebrates, they also provide insights into the evolutionary origins of cell types such as cranial placodes and neural crest cells. Here we have determined single-cell transcriptomes for more than 90,000 cells that span the entirety of development—from the onset of gastrulation to swimming tadpoles—in Ciona intestinalis. Owing to the small numbers of cells in ascidian embryos, this represents an average of over 12-fold coverage for every cell at every stage of development. We used single-cell transcriptome trajectories to construct virtual cell-lineage maps and provisional gene networks for 41 neural subtypes that comprise the larval nervous system. We summarize several applications of these datasets, including annotating the synaptome of swimming tadpoles and tracing the evolutionary origin of cell types such as the vertebrate telencephalon. 

Cao Chen, Lemaire A. Laurence, et al. Nature 2019.