The microRNA pathway controls germ cell proliferation and differentiation in C. elegans.

  • Publication date : 2012-06-04


Bukhari SI, Vasquez-Rifo A, Gagné D, Paquet ER, Zetka M, Robert C, Masson JY, Simard MJ. The microRNA pathway controls germ cell proliferation and differentiation in C. elegans. Cell Res. 2012;22:1034-45. doi: 10.1038/cr.2012.31. PubMed PMID: 22370633.

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animals caenorhabditis elegans caenorhabditis elegans proteins cell differentiation cell proliferation germ cells gonads meiosis micrornas mitosis mutation oocytes phenotype rna interference rna-binding proteins


The discovery of the miRNA pathway revealed a new layer of molecular control of biological processes. To uncover new functions of this gene regulatory pathway, we undertook the characterization of the two miRNA-specific Argonaute proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans, ALG-1 and ALG-2. We first observed that the loss-of-function of alg-1 and alg-2 genes resulted in reduced progeny number. An extensive analysis of the germline of these mutants revealed a reduced mitotic region, indicating fewer proliferating germ cells. We also observed an early entry into meiosis in alg-1 and alg-2 mutant animals. We detected ALG-1 and ALG-2 protein expressions in the distal tip cell (DTC), a specialized cell located at the tip of both C. elegans gonadal arms that regulates mitosis-meiosis transition. Re-establishing the expression of alg-1 specifically in the DTC of mutant animals partially rescued the observed germline defects. Further analyses also support the implication of the miRNA pathway in gametogenesis. Interestingly, we observed that disruption of five miRNAs expressed in the DTC led to similar phenotypes. Finally, gene expression analysis of alg-1 mutant gonads suggests that the miRNA pathway is involved in the regulation of different pathways important for germline proliferation and differentiation. Collectively, our data indicate that the miRNA pathway plays a crucial role in the control of germ cell biogenesis in C. elegans.