[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: PAR proteins (partitioning defective) are major regulators of cell polarity and asymmetric cell division. One of the par genes, par-1, encodes a Ser/Thr kinase that is conserved from yeast to mammals. In Caenorhabditis elegans, par-1 governs asymmetric cell division by ensuring the polar distribution of cell fate determinants. However the precise mechanisms by which PAR-1 regulates asymmetric cell division in C. elegans remain to be elucidated. We performed a genomewide RNAi screen and identified six genes that specifically suppress the embryonic lethal phenotype associated with mutations in par-1. One of these suppressors is mpk-1, the C. elegans homolog of the conserved mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase ERK. Loss of function of mpk-1 restored embryonic viability, asynchronous cell divisions, the asymmetric distribution of cell fate specification markers, and the distribution of PAR-1 protein in par-1 mutant embryos, indicating that this genetic interaction is functionally relevant for embryonic development. Furthermore, disrupting the function of other components of the MAPK signaling pathway resulted in suppression of par-1 embryonic lethality. Our data therefore indicates that MAP kinase signaling antagonizes PAR-1 signaling during early C. elegans embryonic polarization.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A canonical Ras-ERK signaling pathway specifies the fate of the excretory duct cell during Caenorhabditis elegans embryogenesis. The paralogs ksr-1 and ksr-2 encode scaffolding proteins that facilitate signaling through this pathway and that act redundantly to promote the excretory duct fate. In a genomewide RNAi screen for genes that, like ksr-2, are required in combination with ksr-1 for the excretory duct cell fate, we identified 16 "ekl" (enhancer of ksr-1 lethality) genes that are largely maternally required and that have molecular identities suggesting roles in transcriptional or post-transcriptional gene regulation. These include the Argonaute gene csr-1 and a specific subset of other genes implicated in endogenous small RNA processes, orthologs of multiple components of the NuA4/Tip60 histone acetyltransferase and CCR4/NOT deadenylase complexes, and conserved enzymes involved in ubiquitination and deubiquitination. The identification of four small RNA regulators (csr-1, drh-3, ego-1, and ekl-1) that share the Ekl phenotype suggests that these genes define a functional pathway required for the production and/or function of particular germline small RNA(s). These small RNAs and the other ekl genes likely control the expression of one or more regulators of Ras-ERK signaling that function at or near the level of kinase suppressor of Ras (KSR).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Asymmetric spindle positioning is of fundamental importance for generating cell diversity during development. In the C. elegans 1 cell embryo, spindle positioning has been shown to depend on heterotrimeric G protein signaling. Two Galpha subunits, GOA-1 and GPA-16 (hereafter Galpha), and receptor independent activators of G protein signaling GPR-1 and GPR-2 (GPR-1/2) are required for proper regulation of spindle positioning . However, it remains unclear whether Galpha regulates spindle positioning in its GDP or GTP bound form. Here, we investigate the role of RIC-8 in this pathway. RIC-8 was genetically shown to act in concert with goa-1 to regulate centrosome movements in C. elegans . Interestingly, mammalian RIC-8 was recently found to behave as a GEF for Galpha subunits in vitro . We show that reduction of function of ric-8 results in a 1 cell embryo phenotype very similar to the phenotype of embryos depleted of Galpha. RIC-8 is able to directly bind to GOA-1, preferentially to GOA-1-GDP, consistent with a GEF role. RIC-8 is localized at the embryo cortex, and its activity is essential for the asymmetric localization of GPR-1/2. We suggest that RIC-8 directly modulates Galpha activity and that Galpha-GTP is the signaling molecule regulating spindle positioning in the early embryo.