The C. elegans Snail homolog CES-1 can activate gene expression in vivo and share targets with bHLH transcription factors.
Snail-type transcription factors (TFs) are found in numerous metazoan organisms and function in a plethora of cellular and developmental processes including mesoderm and neuronal development, apoptosis and cancer. So far, Snail-type TFs are exclusively known as transcriptional repressors. They repress gene expression by recruiting transcriptional co-repressors and/or by preventing DNA binding of activators from the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family of TFs to CAGGTG E-box sequences. Here we report that the Caenorhabditis elegans Snail-type TF CES-1 can activate transcription in vivo. Moreover, we provide results that suggest that CES-1 can share its binding site with bHLH TFs, in different tissues, rather than only occluding bHLH DNA binding. Together, our data indicate that there are at least two types of CES-1 target genes and, therefore, that the molecular function of Snail-type TFs is more plastic than previously appreciated.