In sexually reproducing animals, oocytes arrest at diplotene or diakinesis and resume meiosis (meiotic maturation) in response to hormones. In Caenorhabditis elegans, major sperm protein triggers meiotic resumption through a mechanism involving somatic Gαs-adenylate cyclase signaling and soma-to-germline gap-junctional communication. Using genetic mosaic analysis, we show that the major effector of Gαs-adenylate cyclase signaling, protein kinase A (PKA), is required in gonadal sheath cells for oocyte meiotic maturation and dispensable in the germ line. This result rules out a model in which cyclic nucleotides must transit through sheath-oocyte gap junctions to activate PKA in the germ line, as proposed in vertebrate systems. We conducted a genetic screen to identify regulators of oocyte meiotic maturation functioning downstream of Gαs-adenylate cyclase-PKA signaling. We molecularly identified 10 regulatory loci, which include essential and nonessential factors. sacy-1, which encodes a highly conserved DEAD-box helicase, is an essential germline factor that negatively regulates meiotic maturation. SACY-1 is a multifunctional protein that establishes a mechanistic link connecting the somatic control of meiotic maturation to germline sex determination and gamete maintenance. Modulatory factors include multiple subunits of a CoREST-like complex and the TWK-1 two-pore potassium channel. These factors are not absolutely required for meiotic maturation or its negative regulation in the absence of sperm, but function cumulatively to enable somatic control of meiotic maturation. This work provides insights into the genetic control of meiotic maturation signaling in C. elegans, and the conserved factors identified here might inform analysis in other systems through either homology or analogy.
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