Many animal species use a chromosome-based mechanism of sex determination, which has led to the coordinate evolution of dosage-compensation systems. Dosage compensation not only corrects the imbalance in the number of X chromosomes between the sexes but also is hypothesized to correct dosage imbalance within cells that is due to monoallelic X-linked expression and biallelic autosomal expression, by upregulating X-linked genes twofold (termed ‘Ohno’s hypothesis’). Although this hypothesis is well supported by expression analyses of individual X-linked genes and by microarray-based transcriptome analyses, it was challenged by a recent study using RNA sequencing and proteomics. We obtained new, independent RNA-seq data, measured RNA polymerase distribution and reanalyzed published expression data in mammals, C. elegans and Drosophila. Our analyses, which take into account the skewed gene content of the X chromosome, support the hypothesis of upregulation of expressed X-linked genes to balance expression of the genome.
The Vaccinia-Related Kinases (VRKs) are highly conserved throughout the animal kingdom and phosphorylate several chromatin proteins and transcription factors. In early Caenorhabditis elegans embryos, VRK-1 is required for proper nuclear envelope formation. In this work we present the first investigation of the developmental role of VRKs by means of a novel C. elegans vrk-1 mutant allele. We found that VRK-1 is essential in hermaphrodites for formation of the vulva, uterus, utse, and for development and maintenance of the somatic gonad and thus the germ line. VRK-1 regulates anchor cell polarity and the timing of anchor cell invasion through the basement membranes separating vulval and somatic gonadal cells during the L3 larval stage. VRK-1 is also required for proper specification and proliferation of uterine cells and sex myoblasts. Expression of the Fibroblast Growth Factor-like protein EGL-17 and its receptor EGL-15 is reduced in vrk-1 mutants, suggesting that VRK-1 might act at least partially through activation of FGF signaling. Expression of a translational VRK-1::GFP fusion protein in the ventral nerve cord and vulva precursor cells restores vulva and uterus formation, suggesting both cell autonomous and non-autonomous roles of VRK-1.
Anchor cell; Caenorhabditis elegans; Cell invasion; Cell polarity; Cell signaling; FGF; Uterus; Vaccinia Related Kinase; vrk-1; Vulva
The germ cells of Caenorhabditis elegans serve as a useful model to study the balance between proliferation and differentiation within the context of development and changing environmental signals experienced by the animal. Germ cells adjacent to a stem cell niche in the distal region of the gonad retain the capacity to divide during adulthood, making them unique from other cells in the organism. We will highlight recent advances in our understanding of mechanisms that control proliferation, as well as the signaling pathways involved in promoting mitosis at the expense of differentiation.
Proliferating germ cells in Caenorhabditis elegans provide a useful model system for deciphering fundamental mechanisms underlying the balance between proliferation and differentiation. Using gene expression profiling, we identified approximately 200 genes upregulated in the proliferating germ cells of C. elegans. Functional characterization using RNA-mediated interference demonstrated that over forty of these factors are required for normal germline proliferation and development. Detailed analysis of two of these factors defined an important regulatory relationship controlling germ cell proliferation. We established that the kinase VRK-1 is required for normal germ cell proliferation, and that it acts in part to regulate CEP-1(p53) activity. Loss of cep-1 significantly rescued the proliferation defects of vrk-1 mutants. We suggest that VRK-1 prevents CEP-1 from triggering an inappropriate cell cycle arrest, thereby promoting germ cell proliferation. This finding reveals a previously unsuspected mechanism for negative regulation of p53 activity in germ cells to control proliferation.
C. elegans; Germ cells; Proliferation; VRK-1; Kinase; p53
While Caenorhabditis elegans specifically responds to infection by the up-regulation of certain genes, distinct pathogens trigger the expression of a common set of genes. We applied new methods to conduct a comprehensive and comparative study of the transcriptional response of C. elegans to bacterial and fungal infection. Using tiling arrays and/or RNA-sequencing, we have characterized the genome-wide transcriptional changes that underlie the host's response to infection by three bacterial (Serratia marcescens, Enterococcus faecalis and otorhabdus luminescens) and two fungal pathogens (Drechmeria coniospora and Harposporium sp.). We developed a flexible tool, the WormBase Converter (available at http://wormbasemanager.sourceforge.net/), to allow cross-study comparisons. The new data sets provided more extensive lists of differentially regulated genes than previous studies. Annotation analysis confirmed that genes commonly up-regulated by bacterial infections are related to stress responses. We found substantial overlaps between the genes regulated upon intestinal infection by the bacterial pathogens and Harposporium, and between those regulated by Harposporium and D. coniospora, which infects the epidermis. Among the fungus-regulated genes, there was a significant bias towards genes that are evolving rapidly and potentially encode small proteins. The results obtained using new methods reveal that the response to infection in C. elegans is determined by the nature of the pathogen, the site of infection and the physiological imbalance provoked by infection. They form the basis for future functional dissection of innate immune signaling. Finally, we also propose alternative methods to identify differentially regulated genes that take into account the greater variability in lowly expressed genes.
Identifying transcription factor binding sites genome-wide using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-based technology is becoming an increasingly important tool in addressing developmental questions. However, technical problems associated with factor abundance and suitable ChIP reagents are common obstacles to these studies in many biological systems. We have used two completely different, widely applicable methods to determine by ChIP the genome-wide binding sites of the master myogenic regulatory transcription factor HLH-1 (CeMyoD) in C. elegans embryos. The two approaches, ChIP-seq and ChIP-chip, yield strongly overlapping results revealing that HLH-1 preferentially binds to promoter regions of genes enriched for E-box sequences (CANNTG), known binding sites for this well-studied class of transcription factors. HLH-1 binding sites were enriched upstream of genes known to be expressed in muscle, consistent with its role as a direct transcriptional regulator. HLH-1 binding was also detected at numerous sites unassociated with muscle gene expression, as has been previously described for its mouse homolog MyoD. These binding sites may reflect several additional functions for HLH-1, including its interactions with one or more co-factors to activate (or repress) gene expression or a role in chromatin organization distinct from direct transcriptional regulation of target genes. Our results also provide a comparison of ChIP methodologies that can overcome limitations commonly encountered in these types of studies while highlighting the complications of assigning in vivo functions to identified target sites.
In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the let-7 microRNA (miRNA) and its family members control the timing of key developmental events in part by directly regulating expression of hunchback-like-1 (hbl-1). C. elegans hbl-1 mutants display multiple developmental timing deficiencies, including cell cycle defects during larval development. While hbl-1 is predicted to encode a transcriptional regulator, downstream targets of HBL-1 have not been fully elucidated. Here we report using microarray analysis to uncover genes downstream of HBL-1. We established a transgenic strain that overexpresses hbl-1 under the control of a heat shock promoter. Heat shock-induced hbl-1 overexpression led to retarded hypodermal structures at the adult stage, opposite to the effect seen in loss of function (lf) hbl-1 mutants. The microarray screen identified numerous potential genes that are upregulated or downregulated by HBL-1, including sym-1, which encodes a leucine-rich repeat protein with a signal sequence. We found an increase in sym-1 transcription in the heat shock-induced hbl-1 overexpression strain, while loss of hbl-1 function caused a decrease in sym-1 expression levels. Furthermore, we found that sym-1(lf) modified the hypodermal abnormalities in hbl-1 mutants. Given that SYM-1 is a protein secreted from hypodermal cells to the surrounding cuticle, we propose that the adult-specific cuticular structures may be under the temporal control of HBL-1 through regulation of sym-1 transcription.
Caenorhabditis elegans; developmental timing; hbl-1; heterochronic genes; let-7; microarray; microRNA
Tiling arrays have been the tool of choice for probing an organism's transcriptome without prior assumptions about the transcribed regions, but RNA-Seq is becoming a viable alternative as the costs of sequencing continue to decrease. Understanding the relative merits of these technologies will help researchers select the appropriate technology for their needs.
Here, we compare these two platforms using a matched sample of poly(A)-enriched RNA isolated from the second larval stage of C. elegans. We find that the raw signals from these two technologies are reasonably well correlated but that RNA-Seq outperforms tiling arrays in several respects, notably in exon boundary detection and dynamic range of expression. By exploring the accuracy of sequencing as a function of depth of coverage, we found that about 4 million reads are required to match the sensitivity of two tiling array replicates. The effects of cross-hybridization were analyzed using a "nearest neighbor" classifier applied to array probes; we describe a method for determining potential "black list" regions whose signals are unreliable. Finally, we propose a strategy for using RNA-Seq data as a gold standard set to calibrate tiling array data. All tiling array and RNA-Seq data sets have been submitted to the modENCODE Data Coordinating Center.
Tiling arrays effectively detect transcript expression levels at a low cost for many species while RNA-Seq provides greater accuracy in several regards. Researchers will need to carefully select the technology appropriate to the biological investigations they are undertaking. It will also be important to reconsider a comparison such as ours as sequencing technologies continue to evolve.
Proper coordination of oogenesis, ovulation, and fertilization is essential for successful reproduction. In C. elegans, a strong loss-of-function mutation in dpl-1, which encodes a subunit of the E2F heterodimeric transcription factor EFL-1/DPL-1, causes severe defects during ovulation and fertilization. Here we demonstrate that the somatic gonad structure and sheath cell contraction rate appear normal in dpl-1 mutants, but that dilation of the spermatheca valve does not occur properly, causing oocytes to become trapped in the proximal gonad arm and enter endomitosis. This ovulation defect can be partially suppressed by increasing the activity of ITR-1, an inositol triphosphate receptor in the spermatheca that promotes dilation in response to IP3 signaling. Tissue-specific rescue experiments demonstrate that expression of DPL-1 in germ cells but not the spermatheca can restore both ovulation and fertilization in dpl-1 mutants, indicating that the absence of DPL-1 likely disrupts a pro-ovulation signal originating in the oocyte that in turn stimulates the spermatheca. Moreover, we found that expression of a single EFL-1/DPL-1-responsive gene, rme-2, in the germ line of dpl-1 mutants significantly rescues ovulation, but not fertilization. Instead, other EFL-1/DPL-1-responsive genes function to promote successful fertilization. We propose that DPL-1 acts with EFL-1 in developing oocytes to directly regulate a transcriptional program that couples the critical events of ovulation and fertilization.
C. elegans; germline; E2F; ovulation; fertilization
A key problem in understanding transcriptional regulatory networks is deciphering what cis regulatory logic is encoded in gene promoter sequences and how this sequence information maps to expression. A typical computational approach to this problem involves clustering genes by their expression profiles and then searching for overrepresented motifs in the promoter sequences of genes in a cluster. However, genes with similar expression profiles may be controlled by distinct regulatory programs. Moreover, if many gene expression profiles in a data set are highly correlated, as in the case of whole organism developmental time series, it may be difficult to resolve fine-grained clusters in the first place. We present a predictive framework for modeling the natural flow of information, from promoter sequence to expression, to learn cis regulatory motifs and characterize gene expression patterns in developmental time courses. We introduce a cluster-free algorithm based on a graph-regularized version of partial least squares (PLS) regression to learn sequence patterns—represented by graphs of k-mers, or “graph-mers”—that predict gene expression trajectories. Applying the approach to wildtype germline development in Caenorhabditis elegans, we found that the first and second latent PLS factors mapped to expression profiles for oocyte and sperm genes, respectively. We extracted both known and novel motifs from the graph-mers associated to these germline-specific patterns, including novel CG-rich motifs specific to oocyte genes. We found evidence supporting the functional relevance of these putative regulatory elements through analysis of positional bias, motif conservation and in situ gene expression. This study demonstrates that our regression model can learn biologically meaningful latent structure and identify potentially functional motifs from subtle developmental time course expression data.
A major challenge in functional genomics is to decipher the gene regulatory networks operating in multi-cellular organisms, such as the nematode C. elegans. The expression level of a gene is controlled, to a great extent, by regulatory proteins called transcription factors that bind short motifs in the gene's promoter (regulatory region in the non-coding DNA). In a temporal regulatory process, for example in development, the “regulatory logic” of DNA motifs in the promoter largely determines the gene's expression trajectory, as the gene responds over time to changing concentrations of the transcription factors that control it. This study addresses the problem of learning DNA motifs that predict temporal expression profiles, using genomewide expression data from developmental time series in C. elegans. We developed a novel algorithm based on techniques from multivariate regression that sets up a correspondence between sequence patterns and expression trajectories. Sequence motifs are represented as graphs of sequence-similar k-length subsequences called “graph-mers”. By applying the method to germline development in C. elegans, we found both known and novel DNA motifs associated with oocyte and sperm genes.
Recently it has been proposed that di-methylation of histone H3 on lysine 4 (H3K4me2) acts as an epigenetic memory to maintain transcriptional patterns in developing tissues. This model suggests that there may be a requirement to reprogram this modification in the germline to prevent transcriptional memory from being inappropriately transmitted to the next generation. We asked if SPR-5, the C. elegans ortholog of the H3K4me2 demethylase LSD1/KDM1, plays a role in epigenetically reprogramming H3K4me2. We show that spr-5 mutants exhibit progressive sterility over many generations due to defects in oogenesis and spermatogenesis. These defects correlate with a progressive failure to erase H3K4me2 in the primordial germ cells, resulting in the misregulation of spermatogenesis-expressed genes due to the transgenerational accumulation of H3K4me2 at these loci. These results suggest that H3K4me2 can serve as an epigenetic memory and that LSD1/KDM1 demethylases play a critical role in the reprogramming of this memory in the germline, preventing inappropriate epigenetic information from being propagated from one generation to the next.
epigenetics; reprogramming; chromatin; germline; germ cells; C. elegans; histone demethylase; LSD1; SPR-5; KDM1
Transcription factors are key components of regulatory networks that control development, as well as the response to environmental stimuli. We have established an experimental pipeline in Caenorhabditis elegans that permits global identification of the binding sites for transcription factors using chromatin immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing. We describe and validate this strategy, and apply it to the transcription factor PHA-4, which plays critical roles in organ development and other cellular processes. We identified thousands of binding sites for PHA-4 during formation of the embryonic pharynx, and also found a role for this factor during the starvation response. Many binding sites were found to shift dramatically between embryos and starved larvae, from developmentally regulated genes to genes involved in metabolism. These results indicate distinct roles for this regulator in two different biological processes and demonstrate the versatility of transcription factors in mediating diverse biological roles.
The C. elegans transcription factor PHA-4 is a member of the highly conserved FOXA family of transcription factors. These factors act as master regulators of organ development by controlling how genes are turned off and on as tissues are formed. Additionally they regulate genes in response to nutrient levels and control both longevity and survival of the organism. However, the extent to which these factors control similar or distinct gene targets for each of these functions is unknown. For this reason, we have used the technique of chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP–Seq), to define the target binding sites of PHA-4 on a genome-wide scale, when it is either functioning as an organ identity regulator or in response to environmental stress. Our data clearly demonstrate distinct sets of biologically relevant target genes for the transcription factor PHA-4 under these two different conditions. Not only have we defined PHA-4 targets, but we established an experimental ChIP–Seq pipeline to facilitate the identification of binding sites for many transcription factors in the future.
Epigenetic regulation by diverse classes of small RNAs is mediated by the highly conserved Argonaute/Piwi family of proteins. While Argonautes are broadly expressed, the Piwi subfamily primarily functions in the germ line. Piwi proteins are associated with germline-specific ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules in Drosophila, zebrafish and mouse. Depending on the species and on the specific family member, Piwis play important roles in either spermatogenesis and/or in maintaining germ cell and stem cell totipotency. Piwis bind to a newly discovered class of small RNAs, called piRNAs. C. elegans contains a large set of Argonaute/Piwi related proteins, including two closely related to piwi, called prg-1 and prg-2. The function of prg-1 and prg-2, and whether piRNAs exist in C. elegans, is unknown.
Here, we demonstrate that the Piwi-like protein PRG-1 is localized to P granules in germ cells entering spermatogenesis, and is required for successful spermatogenesis. Loss of prg-1 causes a marked reduction in expression of a subset of mRNAs expressed during spermatogenesis, and prg-1 mutant sperm exhibit extensive defects in activation and fertilization. Moreover, prg-1 activity is required for the presence of the small RNAs called 21U-RNAs.
Our data suggest that PRG-1 promotes expression, processing, or stability of 21U-RNAs, which, in turn or in concert with PRG-1, promote proper expression of spermatogenesis transcripts.
C. elegans; germ line; piwi; 21U-RNA; spermatogenesis
The highly-conserved, commonly used MAP kinase signaling cascade plays multiple integral roles in germline development in C. elegans. Using a functional proteomic approach, we found that the transcription factor DPL-1, a component of the LIN-35(Rb)/EFL-1(E2F)/DPL-1(DP) pathway, is a candidate phosphorylation substrate of MAP kinase. Moreover, dpl-1 genetically interacts with mpk-1(MAP kinase) to control chromosome morphology in pachytene of meiosis I, as does lin-35. However, EFL-1, the canonical DPL-1 heterodimeric partner, does not have a role in this process. Interestingly, we find that DPL-1 and EFL-1, but not LIN-35, promote the expression of a negative regulator of MPK-1, the MAP kinase phosphatase LIP-1. Two E2F consensus motifs are present upstream of the lip-1 open reading frame. Therefore the Rb/E2F/DP pathway intersects with MAP kinase signaling at multiple points to regulate different aspects of C. elegans germ cell development. These two highly conserved pathways with major regulatory roles in proliferation and differentiation likely have multiple mechanisms for cross-talk during development across many species.
C. elegans; germline; MAP kinase; LIP-1 phosphatase; E2F/DP
During oogenesis, numerous messenger RNAs (mRNAs) are maintained in a translationally silenced state. In eukaryotic cells, various translation inhibition and mRNA degradation mechanisms congregate in cytoplasmic processing bodies (P bodies). The P body protein Dhh1 inhibits translation and promotes decapping-mediated mRNA decay together with Pat1 in yeast, and has been implicated in mRNA storage in metazoan oocytes. Here, we have investigated in Caenorhabditis elegans whether Dhh1 and Pat1 generally function together, and how they influence mRNA sequestration during oogenesis. We show that in somatic tissues, the Dhh1 orthologue (CGH-1) forms Pat1 (patr-1)-dependent P bodies that are involved in mRNA decapping. In contrast, during oogenesis, CGH-1 forms patr-1–independent mRNA storage bodies. CGH-1 then associates with translational regulators and a specific set of maternal mRNAs, and prevents those mRNAs from being degraded. Our results identify somatic and germ cell CGH-1 functions that are distinguished by the involvement of PATR-1, and reveal that during oogenesis, numerous translationally regulated mRNAs are specifically protected by a CGH-1–dependent mechanism.
The nucleolus has shown to be integral for many processes related to cell growth and proliferation. Stem cells in particular are likely to depend upon nucleolus-based processes to remain in a proliferative state. A highly conserved nucleolar factor named nucleostemin is proposed to be a critical link between nucleolar function and stem-cell–specific processes. Currently, it is unclear whether nucleostemin modulates proliferation by affecting ribosome biogenesis or by another nucleolus-based activity that is specific to stem cells and/or highly proliferating cells. Here, we investigate nucleostemin (nst-1) in the nematode C. elegans, which enables us to examine nst-1 function during both proliferation and differentiation in vivo. Like mammalian nucleostemin, the NST-1 protein is localized to the nucleolus and the nucleoplasm; however, its expression is found in both differentiated and proliferating cells. Global loss of C. elegans nucleostemin (nst-1) leads to a larval arrest phenotype due to a growth defect in the soma, while loss of nst-1 specifically in the germ line causes germline stem cells to undergo a cell cycle arrest. nst-1 mutants exhibit reduced levels of rRNAs, suggesting defects in ribosome biogenesis. However, NST-1 is generally not present in regions of the nucleolus where rRNA transcription and processing occurs, so this reduction is likely secondary to a different defect in ribosome biogenesis. Transgenic studies indicate that NST-1 requires its N-terminal domain for stable expression and both its G1 GTPase and intermediate domains for proper germ line function. Our data support a role for C. elegans nucleostemin in cell growth and proliferation by promoting ribosome biogenesis.
Stem cells are carefully poised between the alternate fates of proliferation and differentiation. The regulation of this choice is a complex one that occurs on many different levels. One major influence controlling this choice derives signals emanating from the nucleolus, which serves dual roles as the site of ribosome biogenesis and as a repository for sequestered key regulatory factors. The nucleolar GTPase nucleostemin has recently been identified as a potential link between stem cell proliferation and nucleolar function, but its exact role in the nucleolus has not been directly addressed in a metazoan. Here, we use the model organism C. elegans to investigate the function of nucleostemin in both differentiated cells and proliferating stem cells. We show that nucleostemin probably acts to regulate ribosome biogenesis, and through this process controls cell proliferation. We also suggest that, at least in C. elegans, the function of nucleostemin is not restricted to proliferating stem cells, but that it also functions in differentiated cells to control cell growth. Our study highlights the complexity of the role of the nucleolus in regulation of cell growth and division.
Germ cell development in C. elegans requires that the X chromosomes be globally silenced during mitosis and early meiosis. We previously found that the nuclear proteins MES-2, MES-3, MES-4 and MES-6 regulate the different chromatin states of autosomes versus X chromosomes and are required for germline viability. Strikingly, the SET-domain protein MES-4 is concentrated on autosomes and excluded from the X chromosomes. Here, we show that MES-4 has histone H3 methyltransferase (HMT) activity in vitro, and is required for histone H3K36 dimethylation in mitotic and early meiotic germline nuclei and early embryos. MES-4 appears unlinked to transcription elongation, thus distinguishing it from other known H3K36 HMTs. Based on microarray analysis, loss of MES-4 leads to derepression of X-linked genes in the germ line. We discuss how an autosomally associated HMT may participate in silencing genes on the X chromosome, in coordination with the direct silencing effects of the other MES proteins.
C. elegans; MES proteins; Histone methylation; Germ line; X-chromosome silencing
P granules are germ-cell-specific cytoplasmic structures containing RNA and protein, and required for proper germ cell development in C. elegans. PGL-1 and GLH-1 were previously identified as critical components of P granules. We have identified a new P-granule-associated protein, DEPS-1, the loss of which disrupts P-granule structure and function. DEPS-1 is required for the proper localization of PGL-1 to P granules, the accumulation of glh-1 mRNA and protein, and germ cell proliferation and fertility at elevated temperatures. In addition, DEPS-1 is required for RNA interference (RNAi) of germline-expressed genes, possibly because DEPS-1 promotes the accumulation of RDE-4, a dsRNA-binding protein required for RNAi. A genome wide analysis of gene expression in deps-1 mutant germ lines identified additional targets of DEPS-1 regulation, many of which are also regulated by the RNAi factor RDE-3. Our studies suggest that DEPS-1 is a key component of the P-granule assembly pathway and that its roles include promoting accumulation of some mRNAs, such as glh-1 and rde-4, and reducing accumulation of other mRNAs, perhaps by collaborating with RDE-3 to generate endogenous short interfering RNAs (endo-siRNAs).
Germ granules; RNAi; Gene expression
The PMK-1 p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway and the DAF-2–DAF-16 insulin signaling pathway control Caenorhabditis elegans intestinal innate immunity. pmk-1 loss-of-function mutants have enhanced sensitivity to pathogens, while daf-2 loss-of-function mutants have enhanced resistance to pathogens that requires upregulation of the DAF-16 transcription factor. We used genetic analysis to show that the pathogen resistance of daf-2 mutants also requires PMK-1. However, genome-wide microarray analysis indicated that there was essentially no overlap between genes positively regulated by PMK-1 and DAF-16, suggesting that they form parallel pathways to promote immunity. We found that PMK-1 controls expression of candidate secreted antimicrobials, including C-type lectins, ShK toxins, and CUB-like genes. Microarray analysis demonstrated that 25% of PMK-1 positively regulated genes are induced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. Using quantitative PCR, we showed that PMK-1 regulates both basal and infection-induced expression of pathogen response genes, while DAF-16 does not. Finally, we used genetic analysis to show that PMK-1 contributes to the enhanced longevity of daf-2 mutants. We propose that the PMK-1 pathway is a specific, indispensable immunity pathway that mediates expression of secreted immune response genes, while the DAF-2–DAF-16 pathway appears to regulate immunity as part of a more general stress response. The contribution of the PMK-1 pathway to the enhanced lifespan of daf-2 mutants suggests that innate immunity is an important determinant of longevity.
The innate immune system provides the first line of defense against pathogen infection and relies upon pathways conserved across mammals, insects, and nematodes. Here, the authors have analyzed the transcriptional response of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to infection by the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They investigated this transcriptional response in the context of two conserved pathways involved in pathogen defense: the PMK-1 p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) pathway and the DAF-2–DAF-16 insulin-signaling pathway. Specifically, the authors found that the p38 MAPK pathway plays a critical role in the infection-induced expression of secreted immune response genes. These genes include C-type lectins, lysozymes, and antimicrobial peptides that fight off infection in many species. In contrast, they found that the DAF-16 pathway is not required for immune response gene expression and may regulate immunity as part of a general stress response that functions in parallel to p38 MAPK. In addition, the authors observed that p38 MAPK contributes to the enhanced longevity of daf-2 mutants, implicating p38 MAPK signaling in the regulation of longevity, possibly through its role in immunity.
The LET-60 (Ras)/LIN-45 (Raf)/MPK-1 (MAP kinase) signaling pathway plays a key role in the development of multiple tissues in Caenorhabditis elegans. For the most part, the identities of the downstream genes that act as the ultimate effectors of MPK-1 signaling have remained elusive. A unique allele of mpk-1, ga111, displays a reversible, temperature-sensitive, tissue-specific defect in progression through meiotic prophase I. We performed gene expression profiling on mpk-1(ga111) animals to identify candidate downstream effectors of MPK-1 signaling in the germ line. This analysis delineated a cohort of genes whose expression requires MPK-1 signaling in germ cells in the pachytene stage of meiosis I. RNA in situ hybridization analysis shows that these genes are expressed in the germ line in an MPK-1-dependent manner and have a spatial expression pattern consistent with the location of activated MPK-1. We found that one MPK-1 signaling-responsive gene encoding a C2H2 zinc finger protein plays a role in meiotic chromosome segregation downstream of MPK-1. Additionally, discovery of genes responsive to MPK-1 signaling permitted us to order MPK-1 signaling relative to several events occurring in pachytene, including EFL-1/DPL-1 gene regulation and X chromosome reactivation. This study highlights the utility of applying global gene expression methods to investigate genes downstream of commonly used signaling pathways in vivo.
In many tissues in developing organisms, signaling pathways interpret extracellular cues that change how genes are expressed inside the nucleus and thus direct the appropriate developmental choice. Identification of the genes that are responsive to signaling pathways is critical for understanding how these pathways can promote the correct cell fate. Additionally, understanding the relationships between different regulatory pathways will also help to decipher the network of gene expression that underlies development. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has many signaling pathways that are highly similar to those acting in mammals. In particular, the Ras/Raf/MAP kinase signaling pathway acts in many tissues in C. elegans to direct a diverse set of cell fates. Here, we identify a set of genes whose expression alters in response to Ras/Raf/MAP kinase signaling in the germ line during meiosis. We show that this set of genes is primarily expressed in the germ line and that at least one of these genes is important for proper germ cell fate downstream of Ras/Raf/MAP kinase signaling. We also find that the Ras/Raf/MAP kinase signaling pathway functions independently of a second regulatory pathway, the E2F pathway, that acts at a similar time during germ cell development.
The use of microarray technology to perform parallel analysis of the expression pattern of a large number of genes in a single experiment has created a new frontier of medical research. The vast amount of gene expression data generated from multiple microarray experiments requires a robust database system that allows efficient data storage, retrieval, secure access, data dissemination, and integrated data analyses. To address the growing needs of microarray researchers at Yale and their collaborators, we have built the Yale Microarray Database (YMD). YMD is Web-accessible with the following features: (i) a Web program that tracks DNA samples between source plates and arrays, (ii) the capability of finding common genes/clones across different array platforms, (iii) an image file server, (iv) laboratory-based user management and access privileges, (v) project management, (vi) template data entry, (vii) linking gene expression data to annotation databases for functional analysis. YMD is currently being used on a pilot basis by several laboratories for different organisms and array platforms.