A regulatory cascade of three transcription factors in a single specific neuron, DVC, in Caenorhabditis elegans

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Program in Gene Function and Expression; Program in Molecular Medicine

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Animals; Caenorhabditis elegans; Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins; Female; Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental; Homeodomain Proteins; Interneurons; LIM-Homeodomain Proteins; Male; Transcription Factors


Genetics and Genomics | Systems Biology


Homeobox proteins are critical regulators of developmental gene transcription and cell specification. Many insights into transcriptional regulation have been gained from studies in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We investigated the expression and regulation of the C. elegans homeobox gene ceh-63, which encodes a single-homeodomain transcription factor of 152 amino acids. ceh-63 is expressed in the interneuron DVC in both sexes, from late embryogenesis through adulthood, and two pairs of uterine cells in reproductive hermaphrodites only. A reporter gene fusion, encoding GFP fused to the full-length CEH-63, also drove weak inconsistent expression in additional unidentified cells in the head and tail. A potential ceh-63 null mutant had no obvious abnormalities, except for a possible increase in subtle defects of the DVC axon projection. No behavioural responses were observed upon either laser ablation of DVC or activation of DVC through light stimulation of channelrhodopsin-2 specifically expressed in this neuron. The function of DVC therefore remains enigmatic. A transcriptional regulatory cascade operating in DVC was defined from the LIM-homeodomain protein CEH-14 through CEH-63 to the helix-turn-helix transcription factor MBR-1. Both CEH-14 and CEH-63 individually bound the mbr-1 promoter in a yeast one-hybrid assay. A model is proposed suggesting that CEH-14 activates ceh-63 and then along with CEH-63 co-ordinately activates mbr-1.

DOI of Published Version



Gene. 2012 Feb 15;494(1):73-84. Epub 2011 Dec 19. Link to article on publisher's site

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