Molecular and genetic analysis of unc-7, a Caenorhabditis elegans gene required for coordinated locomotion

T. A. Starich, R. K. Herman, J. E. Shaw

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74 Scopus citations


Mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans gene unc-7 confer an uncoordinated phenotype. Wild-type animals trace smooth, sinuous waves as they move; unc-7 mutants make irregular bends or kinks along their bodies, particularly when they move forward. The unc-7 locus has also been implicated in the nematode's response to volatile anesthetics. We have cloned unc-7 by transposon tagging: an unc-7 mutation was correlated with the insertion of the transposon Tc1, and reversion of the mutant phenotype was correlated with loss of the Tc1 element. We have physically mapped the region flanking the sites of Tc1 insertion and identified DNA rearrangements corresponding to eight additional unc-7 alleles. Northern analysis indicates that a 2.7-kb unc-7 message is present in all developmental stages but is most abundant in L1-L3 larvae. The 5' end of the message contains a trans-spliced leader SL1. An 18-kb intron is located upstream of the predicted translational start site of the gene, and DNA breakpoints of four gamma-ray-induced alleles were located within this intron. We determined the sequence of a cDNA corresponding to the unc-7 message. The message may encode a 60-kd protein whose amino acid sequence is unrelated to any other available protein sequence; a transmembrane location for the unc-7 protein is predicted. We predict from our analysis of unc-7 genetic mosaics that the unc-7 gene product is not required in muscle cells for wild-type coordination but is probably required in motor neurons (although a hypodermal role has not been excluded). We speculate that unc-7 may be involved in the function of neuronal ion channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-541
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1993


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