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Genetics. 1999 Sep;153(1):117-34.

Functional overlap between the mec-8 gene and five sym genes in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.


Earlier work showed that the Caenorhabditis elegans gene mec-8 encodes a regulator of alternative RNA splicing and that mec-8 null mutants have defects in sensory neurons and body muscle attachment but are generally viable and fertile. We have used a genetic screen to identify five mutations in four genes, sym-1-sym-4, that are synthetically lethal with mec-8 loss-of-function mutations. The phenotypes of sym single mutants are essentially wild type. mec-8; sym-1 embryos arrest during embryonic elongation and exhibit defects in the attachment of body muscle to extracellular cuticle. sym-1 can encode a protein containing a signal sequence and 15 contiguous leucine-rich repeats. A fusion of sym-1 and the gene for green fluorescent protein rescued the synthetic lethality of mec-8; sym-1 mutants; the fusion protein was secreted from the apical hypodermal surface of the embryo. We propose that SYM-1 helps to attach body muscle to the extracellular cuticle and that another gene that is dependent upon mec-8 for pre-mRNA processing overlaps functionally with sym-1. RNA-mediated interference experiments indicated that a close relative of sym-1 functionally overlaps both sym-1 and mec-8 in affecting muscle attachment. sym-2, sym-3, and sym-4 appear to provide additional functions that are essential in the absence of mec-8(+).

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