Dominant feminizing mutations implicate protein-protein interactions as the main mode of regulation of the nematode sex-determining gene tra-1

M. De Bono, D. Zarkower, J. Hodgkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

The tra-1 gene is the terminal global selector of somatic sex in Caenorhabditis elegans: High tra-1 activity elicits female somatic development while low tra-1 activity elicits male development. Previous genetic studies defined a cascade of negatively interacting genes that regulates tra-1 activity in response to the primary sex-determining signal. Here, we investigate the last step in this regulatory cascade, by studying rare gain-of-function (gf) mutations of tra-1 that direct female somatic development irrespective of the upstream sex-determining signal. These mutations appear to abolish negative regulation of tra-1 in male tissues. We identify the lesions associated with 29 of these mutations and find that all affect a short stretch of amino acid residues present in both protein products of the tra-1 gene. Twenty-six alleles are associated with single nonconservative amino acid substitutions. Two alleles affect tra-1 RNA splicing and generate messages that omit part or all of the exon encoding this short stretch. These results suggest that sexual regulation of tra-1 is achieved post-translationally, by an inhibitory protein-protein interaction. The amino acid stretch altered by the tra-1(gf) mutations may define a site of interaction for negative regulators of tra-1. The stretch includes a potential phosphorylation site for glycogen synthase kinase 3 and may be conserved in the human gene GLI3, a homolog of tra-1 identified previously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 5 1995

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