The small, secreted immunoglobulin protein ZIG-3 maintains axon position in Caenorhabditis elegans

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Benard Lab

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Animals; Animals, Genetically Modified; Axons; Caenorhabditis elegans; Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins; Epistasis, Genetic; Gene Deletion; Genetic Complementation Test; Immunoglobulins; Models, Biological; Mutation; Neurons; Phenotype; Transgenes


Neuroscience and Neurobiology


Vertebrate and invertebrate genomes contain scores of small secreted or transmembrane proteins with two immunoglobulin (Ig) domains. Many of them are expressed in the nervous system, yet their function is not well understood. We analyze here knockout alleles of all eight members of a family of small secreted or transmembrane Ig domain proteins, encoded by the Caenorhabditis elegans zig ("zwei Ig Domanen") genes. Most of these family members display the unusual feature of being coexpressed in a single neuron, PVT, whose axon is located along the ventral midline of C. elegans. One of these genes, zig-4, has previously been found to be required for maintaining axon position postembryonically in the ventral nerve cord of C. elegans. We show here that loss of zig-3 function results in similar postdevelopmental axon maintenance defects. The maintenance function of both zig-3 and zig-4 serves to counteract mechanical forces that push axons around, as well as various intrinsic attractive forces between axons that cause axon displacement if zig genes like zig-3 or zig-4 are deleted. Even though zig-3 is expressed only in a limited number of neurons, including PVT, transgenic rescue experiments show that zig-3 can function irrespective of which cell or tissue type it is expressed in. Double mutant analysis shows that zig-3 and zig-4 act together to affect axon maintenance, yet they are not functionally interchangeable. Both genes also act together with other, previously described axon maintenance factors, such as the Ig domain proteins DIG-1 and SAX-7, the C. elegans ortholog of the human L1 protein. Our studies shed further light on the use of dedicated factors to maintain nervous system architecture and corroborate the complexity of the mechanisms involved.

DOI of Published Version



Genetics. 2009 Nov;183(3):917-27. Epub 2009 Sep 7. Link to article on publisher's site

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