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Development. 2000 Dec;127(23):5179-90.

Overlapping roles of two Hox genes and the exd ortholog ceh-20 in diversification of the C. elegans postembryonic mesoderm.

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  • 1Carnegie Institution of Washington, Department of Embryology, Baltimore, MD 21210, USA.


Members of the Hox family of homeoproteins and their cofactors play a central role in pattern formation of all germ layers. During postembryonic development of C. elegans, non-gonadal mesoderm arises from a single mesoblast cell M. Starting in the first larval stage, M divides to produce 14 striated muscles, 16 non-striated muscles, and two non-muscle cells (coelomocytes). We investigated the role of the C. elegans Hox cluster and of the exd ortholog ceh-20 in patterning of the postembryonic mesoderm. By examining the M lineage and its differentiation products in different Hox mutant combinations, we found an essential but overlapping role for two of the Hox cluster genes, lin-39 and mab-5, in diversification of the postembryonic mesoderm. This role of the two Hox gene products required the CEH-20 cofactor. One target of these two Hox genes is the C. elegans twist ortholog hlh-8. Using both in vitro and in vivo assays, we demonstrated that twist is a direct target of Hox activation. We present evidence from mutant phenotypes that twist is not the only target for Hox genes in the M lineage: in particular we show that lin-39 mab-5 double mutants exhibit a more severe M lineage defect than the hlh-8 null mutant.

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