Dynamically-expressed prion-like proteins form a cuticle in the pharynx of Caenorhabditis elegans.
ABSTRACT: In molting animals, a cuticular extracellular matrix forms the first barrier to infection and other environmental insults. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans there are two types of cuticle: a well-studied collagenous cuticle lines the body, and a poorly-understood chitinous cuticle lines the pharynx. In the posterior end of the pharynx is the grinder, a tooth-like cuticular specialization that crushes food prior to transport to the intestine for digestion. We here show that the grinder increases in size only during the molt. To gain molecular insight into the structure of the grinder and pharyngeal cuticle, we performed a microarray analysis to identify mRNAs increased during the molt. We found strong transcriptional induction during the molt of 12 of 15 previously identified abu genes encoding Prion-like (P) glutamine (Q) and asparagine (N) rich PQN proteins, as well as 15 additional genes encoding closely related PQN proteins. abu/pqn genes, which we name the abu/pqn paralog group (APPG) genes, were expressed in pharyngeal cells and the proteins encoded by two APPG genes we tested localized to the pharyngeal cuticle. Deleting the APPG gene abu-14 caused abnormal pharyngeal cuticular structures and knocking down other APPG genes resulted in abnormal cuticular function. We propose that APPG proteins promote the assembly and function of a unique cuticular structure. The strong developmental regulation of the APPG genes raises the possibility that such genes would be identified in transcriptional profiling experiments in which the animals' developmental stage is not precisely staged.
Project description:C. elegans molts at the end of each of its four larval stages but this cycle ceases at the reproductive adult stage. We have identified a regulator of molting, pqn-47. Null mutations in pqn-47 cause a developmental arrest at the first larval molt, showing that this gene activity is required to transit the molt. Mutants with weak alleles of pqn-47 complete the larval molts but fail to exit the molting cycle at the adult stage. These phenotypes suggest that pqn-47 executes key aspects of the molting program including the cessation of molting cycles. The pqn-47 gene encodes a protein that is highly conserved in animal phylogeny but probably misannotated in genome sequences due to much less significant homology to a yeast transcription factor. A PQN-47::GFP fusion gene is expressed in many neurons, vulval precursor cells, the distal tip cell (DTC), intestine, and the lateral hypodermal seam cells but not in the main body hypodermal syncytium (hyp7) that underlies, synthesizes, and releases most of the collagenous cuticle. A functional PQN-47::GFP fusion protein localizes to the cytoplasm rather than the nucleus at all developmental stages, including the periods preceding and during ecdysis when genetic analysis suggests that pqn-47 functions. The cytoplasmic localization of PQN-47::GFP partially overlaps with the endoplasmic reticulum, suggesting that PQN-47 is involved in the extensive secretion of cuticle components or hormones that occurs during molts. The mammalian and insect homologues of pqn-47 may serve similar roles in regulated secretion.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The insect cuticle is composed of various proteins and formed during the molt under hormonal regulation, although its precise composition and formation mechanism are largely unknown. The exhaustive catalogue of genes expressed in epidermis at the molt constitutes a massive amount of information from which to draw a complete picture of the molt and cuticle formation in insects. Therefore, we have catalogued a library of full-length cDNAs (designated epM) from epidermal cells during the last larval molt of Bombyx mori. RESULTS: Of the 10,368 sequences in the library, we isolated 6,653 usable expressed sequence tags (ESTs), which were categorized into 1,451 nonredundant gene clusters. Seventy-one clusters were considered to be isoforms or premature forms of other clusters. Therefore, we have identified 1,380 putative genes. Of the 6,653 expressed sequences, 48% were derived from 92 cuticular protein genes (RR-1, 24; RR-2, 17; glycine-rich, 29; other classes, 22). A comparison of epM with another epidermal EST data set, epV3 (feeding stage: fifth instar, day 3), showed marked differences in cuticular protein gene. Various types of cuticular proteins are expressed in epM but virtually only RR-1 proteins were expressed in epV3. Cuticular protein genes expressed specifically in epidermis, with several types of expression patterns during the molt, suggest different types of responses to the ecdysteroid pulse. Compared with other Bombyx EST libraries, 13 genes were preferentially included in epM data set. We isolated 290 genes for proteins other than cuticular proteins, whose amino acid sequences retain putative signal peptides, suggesting that they play some role in cuticle formation or in other molting events. Several gene groups were also included in this data set: hormone metabolism, P450, modifier of cuticular protein structure, small-ligand-binding protein, transcription factor, and pigmentation genes. CONCLUSION: We have identified 1,380 genes in epM data set and 13 preferentially expressed genes in epidermis at the molt. The comparison of the epM and other EST libraries clarified the totally different gene expression patterns in epidermis between the molting and feeding stages and many novel tissue- and stage-specifically expressed epidermal genes. These data should further our understanding of cuticle formation and the insect molt.
Project description:The endoplasmic reticulum stress response, also known as the unfolded protein response (UPR), has been implicated in the normal physiology of immune defense and in several disorders, including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease. Here, we show that the apoptotic receptor CED-1 and a network of PQN/ABU proteins involved in a noncanonical UPR response are required for proper defense to pathogen infection in Caenorhabditis elegans. A full-genome microarray analysis indicates that CED-1 functions to activate the expression of pqn/abu genes. We also show that ced-1 and pqn/abu genes are required for the survival of C. elegans exposed to live Salmonella enterica, and that overexpression of pqn/abu genes confers protection against pathogen-mediated killing. The results indicate that unfolded protein response genes, regulated in a CED-1-dependent manner, are involved in the C. elegans immune response to live bacteria.
Project description:The Caenorhabditis elegans pharynx (or foregut) functions as a pump that draws in food (bacteria) from the environment. While the "organ identity factor" PHA-4 is critical for formation of the C. elegans pharynx as a whole, little is known about the specification of distinct cell types within the pharynx. Here, we use a combination of bioinformatics, molecular biology, and genetics to identify a helix-loop-helix transcription factor (HLH-6) as a critical regulator of pharyngeal gland development. HLH-6 is required for expression of a number of gland-specific genes, acting through a discrete cis-regulatory element named PGM1 (Pharyngeal Gland Motif 1). hlh-6 mutants exhibit a frequent loss of a subset of glands, while the remaining glands have impaired activity, indicating a role for hlh-6 in both gland development and function. Interestingly, hlh-6 mutants are also feeding defective, ascribing a biological function for the glands. Pharyngeal pumping in hlh-6 mutants is normal, but hlh-6 mutants lack expression of a class of mucin-related proteins that are normally secreted by pharyngeal glands and line the pharyngeal cuticle. An interesting possibility is that one function of pharyngeal glands is to secrete a pharyngeal lining that ensures efficient transport of food along the pharyngeal lumen.
Project description:Arthropod growth requires molt-associated changes in softness and stiffness of the cuticle that protects from desiccation, infection and injury. Cuticle hardening in insects depends on the blood-borne hormone, bursicon (Burs), although it has never been determined in hemolymph. Whilst also having Burs, decapod crustaceans reiterate molting many more times during their longer life span and are encased in a calcified exoskeleton, which after molting undergoes similar initial cuticle hardening processes as in insects. We investigated the role of homologous crustacean Burs in cuticular changes and growth in the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. We found dramatic increases in size and number of Burs cells during development in paired thoracic ganglion complex (TGC) neurons with pericardial organs (POs) as neurohemal release sites. A skewed expression of Burs ?/Burs ? mRNA in TGC corresponds to protein contents of identified Burs ? homodimer and Burs heterodimer in POs. In hemolymph, Burs is consistently present at ?21 pM throughout the molt cycle, showing a peak of ?89 pM at ecdysis. Since initial cuticle hardness determines the degree of molt-associated somatic increment (MSI), we applied recombinant Burs in vitro to cuticle explants of late premolt or early ecdysis. Burs stimulates cuticle thickening and granulation of hemocytes. These findings demonstrate novel cuticle-associated functions of Burs during molting, while the unambiguous and constant presence of Burs in cells and hemolymph throughout the molt cycle and life stages may implicate further functions of its homo- and heterodimer hormone isoforms in immunoprotective defense systems of arthropods.
Project description:Complex extracellular structures exist throughout phylogeny, but the dynamics of their formation and dissolution are often opaque. One example is the pharyngeal grinder of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, an extracellular structure that ruptures bacteria during feeding. During each larval transition stage, called lethargus, the grinder is replaced with one of a larger size. Here, we characterize at the ultrastructural level the deconstruction of the larval grinder and the construction of the adult grinder during the fourth larval stage (L4)-to-adult transition. Early in L4 lethargus, pharyngeal muscle cells trans-differentiate from contractile to secretory cells, as evidenced by the appearance of clear and dense core vesicles and disruptions in sarcomere organization. This is followed, within minutes, by the dissolution of the L4 grinder and the formation and maturation of the adult grinder. Components of the nascent adult grinder are deposited basally, and are separated from the dissolving larval grinder by a visible apical layer. The complete grinder is a lamellated extracellular matrix comprised of five layers. Following grinder formation, pharyngeal muscle cells regain ultrastructural contractile properties, and muscle contractions resume. Our findings add to our understanding of how complex extracellular structures assemble and dissemble.
Project description:The insect cuticle is a critical protective shell that is composed predominantly of chitin and various cuticular proteins and pigments. Indeed, insects often change their surface pigment patterns in response to selective pressures, such as threats from predators, sexual selection and environmental changes. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the construction of the epidermis and its pigmentation patterns are not fully understood. Among Lepidoptera, the silkworm is a favorable model for color pattern research. The black dilute (bd) mutant of silkworm is the result of a spontaneous mutation; the larval body color is notably melanized. We performed integument transcriptome sequencing of the wild-type strain Dazao and the mutant strains +/bd and bd/bd. In these experiments, during an early stage of the fourth molt, a stage at which approximately 51% of genes were expressed genome wide (RPKM ?1) in each strain. A total of 254 novel transcripts were characterized using Cuffcompare and BLAST analyses. Comparison of the transcriptome data revealed 28 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) that may contribute to bd larval melanism, including 15 cuticular protein genes that were remarkably highly expressed in the bd/bd mutant. We suggest that these significantly up-regulated cuticular proteins may promote melanism in silkworm larvae.
Project description:Recently, parasitoid wasp species Microplitis mediator has evoked increasing research attention due to its possible use in the control of Lepidoptera insects. Because insect development involves changes in cuticle composition, identification and expression analysis of M. mediator cuticular proteins may clarify the mechanisms involved in parasite development processes. We found 70 cuticular proteins from the M. mediator transcriptome and divided them into seven distinct families. Expression profiling indicated that most of these cuticular protein genes have expression peaks specific for one particular developmental stage of M. mediator. Eggs and pupae have the highest number of transcriptionally active cuticular protein genes (47 and 52 respectively). Only 12 of these genes maintained high expression activity during late larval development. Functional analysis of two larval proteins, MmCPR3 and MmCPR14, suggested their important role in the proper organization of the cuticle layers of larvae. During M. mediator larval development, normal cuticle formation can be supported by a limited number of cuticular proteins.
Project description:Aspartate 1-decarboxylase (ADC) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine decarboxylase (DDC) provide beta-alanine and dopamine used in insect cuticle tanning. beta-Alanine is conjugated with dopamine to yield N-beta-alanyldopamine (NBAD), a substrate for the phenol oxidase laccase that catalyzes the synthesis of cuticle protein cross-linking agents and pigment precursors. We identified ADC and DDC genes in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum (Tc), and investigated their functions. TcADC mRNA was most abundant prior to the pupal-adult molt. Injection of TcADC double-stranded (ds) RNA (dsTcADC) into mature larvae resulted in depletion of NBAD in pharate adults, accumulation of dopamine, and abnormally dark pigmentation of the adult cuticle. Injection of beta-alanine, the expected product of ADC, into dsTcADC-treated pupae rescued the pigmentation phenotype, resulting in normal rust-red color. A similar pattern of catechol content consisting of elevated dopamine and depressed NBAD was observed in the genetic black mutants of Tribolium, in which levels of TcADC mRNA were drastically reduced. Furthermore, from the Tribolium black mutant and dsTcADC-injected insects both exhibited similar changes in material properties. Dynamic mechanical analysis of elytral cuticle from beetles with depleted TcADC transcripts revealed diminished cross-linking of cuticular components, further confirming the important role of oxidation products of NBAD as cross-linking agents during cuticle tanning. Injection of dsTcDDC into larvae produced a lethal pupal phenotype, and the resulting grayish pupal cuticle exhibited many small patches of black pigmentation. When dsTcDDC was injected into young pupae, the resulting adults had abnormally dark brown body color, but there was little mortality. Injection of dsTcDDC resulted in more than a 5-fold increase in levels of DOPA, indicating that lack of TcDDC led to accumulation of its substrate, DOPA.
Project description:During their development, Caenorhabditis elegans larvae go through four developmental stages. At the end of each larval stage, nematodes molt. They synthesize a new cuticle and shed the old cuticle. During the molt, larvae display a sleep-like behavior that is called lethargus. We wanted to determine how gene expression changes during the C. elegans molting cycle. We performed transcriptional profiling of C. elegans by selecting larvae displaying either sleep-like behavior during the molt or wake behavior during the intermolt to identify genes that oscillate with the molting-cycle. We found that expression changed during the molt and we identified 520 genes that oscillated with the molting cycle. 138 of these genes were not previously reported to oscillate. The majority of genes that had oscillating expression levels appear to be involved in molting, indicating that the majority of transcriptional changes serve to resynthesize the cuticle. Identification of genes that control sleep-like behavior during lethargus is difficult but may be possible by looking at genes that are expressed in neurons. 22 of the oscillating genes were expressed in neurons. One of these genes, the dopamine transporter gene dat-1, was previously shown in mammals and in C. elegans to control sleep. Taken together, we provide a dataset of genes that oscillate with the molting and sleep-wake cycle, which will be useful to investigate molting and possibly also sleep-like behavior during lethargus.