A neomorphic syntaxin mutation blocks volatile-anesthetic action in Caenorhabditis elegans.
The molecular mechanisms underlying general anesthesia are unknown. For volatile general anesthetics (VAs), indirect evidence for both lipid and protein targets has been found. However, no in vivo data have implicated clearly any particular lipid or protein in the control of sensitivity to clinical concentrations of VAs. Genetics provides one approach toward identifying these mechanisms, but genes strongly regulating sensitivity to clinical concentrations of VAs have not been identified. By screening existing mutants of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, we found that a mutation in the neuronal syntaxin gene dominantly conferred resistance to the VAs isoflurane and halothane. By contrast, other mutations in syntaxin and in the syntaxin-binding proteins synaptobrevin and SNAP-25 produced VA hypersensitivity. The syntaxin allelic variation was striking, particularly for isoflurane, where a 33-fold range of sensitivities was seen. Both the resistant and hypersensitive mutations decrease synaptic transmission; thus, the indirect effect of reducing neurotransmission does not explain the VA resistance. As assessed by pharmacological criteria, halothane and isoflurane themselves reduced cholinergic transmission, and the presynaptic anesthetic effect was blocked by the resistant syntaxin mutation. A single gene mutation conferring high-level resistance to VAs is inconsistent with nonspecific membrane-perturbation theories of anesthesia. The genetic and pharmacological data suggest that the resistant syntaxin mutant directly blocks VA binding to or efficacy against presynaptic targets that mediate anesthetic behavioral effects. Syntaxin and syntaxin-binding proteins are candidate anesthetic targets. (+info)
Evolution of sperm size in nematodes: sperm competition favours larger sperm.
In the free-living rhabditid nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, sperm size is a determinant of sperm competitiveness. Larger sperm crawl faster and physically displace smaller sperm to take fertilization priority, but not without a cost: larger sperm are produced at a slower rate. Here, we investigate the evolution of sperm size in the family Rhabditidae by comparing sperm among 19 species, seven of which are hermaphroditic (self-fertile hermaphrodites and males), the rest being gonochoristic (females and males). We found that sperm size differed significantly with reproductive mode: males of gonochoristic species had significantly larger sperm than did males of the hermaphroditic species. Because males compose 50% of the populations of gonochoristic species but are rare in hermaphroditic species, the risk of male-male sperm competition is greater in gonochoristic species. Larger sperm have thus evolved in species with a greater risk of sperm competition. Our results support recent studies contending that sperm size may increase in response to sperm competition. (+info)
Crystal structure of human p32, a doughnut-shaped acidic mitochondrial matrix protein.
Human p32 (also known as SF2-associated p32, p32/TAP, and gC1qR) is a conserved eukaryotic protein that localizes predominantly in the mitochondrial matrix. It is thought to be involved in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and in nucleus-mitochondrion interactions. We report the crystal structure of p32 determined at 2.25 A resolution. The structure reveals that p32 adopts a novel fold with seven consecutive antiparallel beta-strands flanked by one N-terminal and two C-terminal alpha-helices. Three monomers form a doughnut-shaped quaternary structure with an unusually asymmetric charge distribution on the surface. The implications of the structure on previously proposed functions of p32 are discussed and new specific functional properties are suggested. (+info)
ELT-3: A Caenorhabditis elegans GATA factor expressed in the embryonic epidermis during morphogenesis.
We have identified a gene encoding a new member of the Caenorhabditis elegans GATA transcription factor family, elt-3. The predicted ELT-3 polypeptide contains a single GATA-type zinc finger (C-X2-C-X17-C-X2-C) along with a conserved adjacent basic region. elt-3 mRNA is present in all stages of C. elegans development but is most abundant in embryos. Reporter gene analysis and antibody staining show that elt-3 is first expressed in the dorsal and ventral hypodermal cells, and in hypodermal cells of the head and tail, immediately after the final embryonic cell division that gives rise to these cells. No expression is seen in the lateral hypodermal (seam) cells. elt-3 expression is maintained at a constant level in the epidermis until the 2(1/2)-fold stage of development, after which reporter gene expression declines to a low level and endogenous protein can no longer be detected by specific antibody. A second phase of elt-3 expression in cells immediately anterior and posterior to the gut begins in pretzel-stage embryos. elt-1 and lin-26 are two genes known to be important in specification and maintenance of hypodermal cell fates. We have found that elt-1 is required for the formation of most, but not all, elt-3-expressing cells. In contrast, lin-26 function does not appear necessary for elt-3 expression. Finally, we have characterised the candidate homologue of elt-3 in the nematode Caenorhabditis briggsae. Many features of the elt-3 genomic and transcript structure are conserved between the two species, suggesting that elt-3 is likely to perform an evolutionarily significant function during development. (+info)
Functional genomics in Caenorhabditis elegans: An approach involving comparisons of sequences from related nematodes.
Comparative genomic analysis was used to investigate the gene structure of the bli-4 locus from two related Caenorhabditis species, C. elegans and C. briggsae. In C. elegans, bli-4 is a complex gene encoding a member of the kex2/subtilisin-like family of proprotein convertases. Genomic sequence comparisons coupled with RT-PCR analysis identified five additional coding exons that had not been identified previously using standard recombinant DNA techniques. The C. briggsae gene was able to rescue both viable blistered and developmentally arrested mutants of C. elegans bli-4, demonstrating functional conservation. In addition, deletion analysis of conserved sequences outside of coding regions, combined with phenotypic rescue experiments, identified regulatory elements that alter the expression of the bli-4 gene. These results demonstrate the utility of genomic sequence comparisons of homologous genes in related species as an effective tool with which to dissect the functional information of complex genes. (+info)
lir-2, lir-1 and lin-26 encode a new class of zinc-finger proteins and are organized in two overlapping operons both in Caenorhabditis elegans and in Caenorhabditis briggsae.
lin-26, which encodes a unique Zn-finger protein, is required for differentiation of nonneuronal ectodermal cells in Caenorhabditis elegans. Here, we show that the two genes located immediately upstream of lin-26 encode LIN-26-like Zn-finger proteins; hence their names are lir-1 and lir-2 (lin-26 related). lir-2, lir-1, and lin-26 generate several isoforms by alternative splicing and/or trans-splicing at different positions. On the basis of their trans-splicing pattern, their intergenic distances, and their expression, we suggest that lir-2, lir-1, and lin-26 form two overlapping transcriptional operons. The first operon, which is expressed in virtually all cells, includes lir-2 and long lir-1 isoforms. The second operon, which is expressed in the nonneuronal ectoderm, includes short lir-1 isoforms, starting at exon 2 and lin-26. This unusual genomic organization has been conserved in C. briggsae, as shown by cloning the C. briggsae lir-2, lir-1, and lin-26 homologs. Particularly striking is the sequence conservation throughout the first lir-1 intron, which is very long in both species. Structural conservation is functionally meaningful as C. briggsae lin-26 is also expressed in the nonneuronal ectoderm and can complement a C. elegans lin-26 null mutation. (+info)
Homologs of the Caenorhabditis elegans masculinizing gene her-1 in C. briggsae and the filarial parasite Brugia malayi.
The masculinizing gene her-1 in Caenorhabditis elegans (Ce-her-1) encodes a novel protein, HER-1A, which is required for male development. To identify conserved elements in her-1 we have cloned and characterized two homologous nematode genes: one by synteny from the closely related free-living species C. briggsae (Cb-her-1) and the other, starting with a fortuitously identified expressed sequence tag, from the distantly related parasite Brugia malayi (Bm-her-1). The overall sequence identities of the predicted gene products with Ce-HER-1A are only 57% for Cb-HER-1, which is considerably lower than has been found for most homologous briggsae genes, and 35% for Bm-HER-1. However, conserved residues are found throughout both proteins, and like Ce-HER-1A, both have putative N-terminal signal sequences. Ce-her-1 produces a larger masculinizing transcript (her-1a) and a smaller transcript of unknown function (her-1b); both are present essentially only in males. By contrast, Cb-her-1 appears to produce only one transcript, corresponding to her-1a; it is enriched in males but present also in hermaphrodites. Injection of dsRNA transcribed from Cb-her-1 into C. briggsae hermaphrodites (RNA interference) caused XO animals to develop into partially fertile hermaphrodites. Introducing a Cb-her-1 construct as a transgene under control of the C. elegans unc-54 myosin heavy chain promoter caused strong masculinization of both C. briggsae and C. elegans hermaphrodites. Introduction of a similar Bm-her-1 construct into C. elegans caused only very weak, if any, masculinization. We conclude that in spite of considerable divergence the Cb gene is likely to be a functional ortholog of Ce-her-1, while the function of the distantly related Bm gene remains uncertain. (+info)
Complete genome sequences are providing a framework to allow the investigation of biological processes by the use of comprehensive approaches. Genome analysis also is having a dramatic impact on medicine through its identification of genes and mutations involved in disease and the elucidation of entire microbial gene sets. Studies of the sequences of model organisms, such as that of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, are providing extraordinary insights into development and differentiation that aid the study of these processes in humans. The field of functional genomics seeks to devise and apply technologies that take advantage of the growing body of sequence information to analyze the full complement of genes and proteins encoded by an organism. (+info)