Opposing Activities of LIT-1/NLK and DAF-6/Patched-Related Direct Sensory Compartment Morphogenesis in C. elegans

Laboratory of Developmental Genetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York, United States of America.
PLoS Biology (Impact Factor: 9.34). 08/2011; 9(8):e1001121. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001121
Source: PubMed


Glial cells surround neuronal endings to create enclosed compartments required for neuronal function. This architecture is seen at excitatory synapses and at sensory neuron receptive endings. Despite the prevalence and importance of these compartments, how they form is not known. We used the main sensory organ of C. elegans, the amphid, to investigate this issue. daf-6/Patched-related is a glia-expressed gene previously implicated in amphid sensory compartment morphogenesis. By comparing time series of electron-microscopy (EM) reconstructions of wild-type and daf-6 mutant embryos, we show that daf-6 acts to restrict compartment size. From a genetic screen, we found that mutations in the gene lit-1/Nemo-like kinase (NLK) suppress daf-6. EM and genetic studies demonstrate that lit-1 acts within glia, in counterbalance to daf-6, to promote sensory compartment expansion. Although LIT-1 has been shown to regulate Wnt signaling, our genetic studies demonstrate a novel, Wnt-independent role for LIT-1 in sensory compartment size control. The LIT-1 activator MOM-4/TAK1 is also important for compartment morphogenesis and both proteins line the glial sensory compartment. LIT-1 compartment localization is important for its function and requires neuronal signals. Furthermore, the conserved LIT-1 C-terminus is necessary and sufficient for this localization. Two-hybrid and co-immunoprecipitation studies demonstrate that the LIT-1 C-terminus binds both actin and the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP), an actin regulator. We use fluorescence light microscopy and fluorescence EM methodology to show that actin is highly enriched around the amphid sensory compartment. Finally, our genetic studies demonstrate that WASP is important for compartment expansion and functions in the same pathway as LIT-1. The studies presented here uncover a novel, Wnt-independent role for the conserved Nemo-like kinase LIT-1 in controlling cell morphogenesis in conjunction with the actin cytoskeleton. Our results suggest that the opposing daf-6 and lit-1 glial pathways act together to control sensory compartment size.

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    ABSTRACT: The endings of sensory receptor cells often lie within specialized compartments formed by glial cells. The main sensory organ of Caenorhabditis elegans, the amphid, provides a powerful setting for studying glial compartment morphogenesis. Our previous studies showed that amphid compartment size is controlled by opposing activities of the Nemo-like kinase LIT-1, which promotes compartment expansion, and the Patched-related protein DAF-6, which restricts compartment growth. From a genetic screen for mutations able to suppress the bloated sensory compartments of daf-6 mutants, we identified an allele of the sorting nexin gene snx-1. SNX-1 protein is a component of the retromer, a protein complex that facilitates recycling of transmembrane proteins from the endosome to the Golgi network. We find that snx-1 functions cell autonomously within glia to promote sensory compartment growth, and that SNX-1 protein is enriched near the surface of the sensory compartment. snx-1 interacts genetically with lit-1 and another regulator of compartment size, the Dispatched-related gene che-14. Mutations in snx-3 and vps-29, also retromer genes, can suppress daf-6 defects. Surprisingly, however, remaining retromer components seem not to be involved. Our results suggest that a novel assembly of retromer components is important for determining sensory compartment dimensions.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2011 · Developmental Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Glial cells surround neuronal endings and isolate them within specialized compartments. This architecture is found at synapses in the central nervous system, as well as at receptive endings of sensory neurons. Recent studies are beginning to uncover the contributions of glial compartments to the functions of the ensheathed neurons. However, the cellular and molecular processes that guide compartment morphogenesis remain unknown. The main sensory organ of Caenorhabditis elegans, the amphid, provides an experimentally tractable setting in which to address the mechanisms underlying glial compartment formation. Amphid development is stereotyped and amphid structure is easily assayed. We recently uncovered a molecular tug of war that regulates the size of the amphid sensory compartment. The Nemo-like kinase LIT-1 interacts with the glial cytoskeleton to promote compartment growth, a process that also involves components of the retromer complex, while the Patched-related transmembrane protein DAF-6 keeps this expansion in check. Here we discuss how regulation of secretion by the cytoskeleton could guide the sculpting of glial compartments.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2012
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    ABSTRACT: Neurons and glia display remarkable morphological plasticity, and remodeling of glia may facilitate neuronal shape changes. The molecular basis and control of glial shape changes is not well understood. In response to environmental stress, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans enters an alternative developmental state, called dauer, in which glia and neurons of the amphid sensory organ remodel. Here, we describe a genetic screen aimed at identifying genes required for amphid glia remodeling. We previously demonstrated that remodeling requires the Otx-type transcription factor TTX-1 and its direct target, the receptor tyrosine kinase gene ver-1. We now find that the hunchback/Ikaros-like C2H2 zinc-finger factor ztf-16 is also required. We show that ztf-16 mutants exhibit pronounced remodeling defects, which are explained, at least in part, by defects in the expression of ver-1. Expression and cell-specific rescue studies suggest that ztf-16, like ttx-1, functions within glia; however, promoter deletion studies show that ztf-16 acts through a site on the ver-1 promoter that is independent of ttx-1. Our studies identify an important component of glia remodeling and suggest that transcriptional changes may underlie glial morphological plasticity in the sensory organs of C. elegans.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2012 · Genetics
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