EGL-5/ABD-B plays an instructive role in male cell fate determination in the C. elegans somatic gonad

Andrea K. Kalis, Mark W. Murphy, David Zarkower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Hox genes of the Abdominal-B (Abd-B) class regulate gonadal development in diverse metazoans. Here we have investigated the role of the Abd-B homolog egl-5 in C. elegans gonadal development. Previous work showed that egl-5 is required male-specifically in the gonad and that mutant gonads are highly dysgenic and possibly feminized. We have used sex-specific gonadal reporter genes to confirm that the gonads of egl-5 males are extensively feminized. Sex-specific expression of egl-5 requires the global sex determination gene tra-1 and the gonadal masculinizing gene fkh-6, but mutagenesis of a short male gonadal enhancer element in egl-5 suggested that this regulation is indirect. Ectopic expression of EGL-5 in hermaphrodites is sufficient to induce male gonadal gene expression, indicating that EGL-5 plays an instructive role in male gonadal fate determination. EGL-5 acts in parallel with a Wnt/β-catenin pathway to regulate male gonadal fates and can physically interact with the Wnt pathway transcription factor POP-1 and modulate activity of a POP-1 dependent reporter gene. We propose that EGL-5 imparts sex-specific function on POP-1 by recruiting it to male-specific gonadal target genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-835
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Drs. Scott Emmons, Ian Hope, Judith Kimble, Paul Sternberg, James Priess, and David Greenstein for strains and reagents, Kathleen Larson and Matthew Berkseth for experimental assistance, and Drs. Jennifer Ross Wolff and Mary Kroetz for critical reading of the manuscript. Many C. elegans strains used in this work were provided by the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center, which is funded by the NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). This work was supported by NIH grants GM53099 (DZ) and T32HD007480 (AKK) .


  • Gonad
  • Hox
  • Sexual differentiation
  • Wnt


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