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Dev Biol. 2004 Aug 15;272(2):448-59.

Functional domains and temperature-sensitive mutations in SPE-9, an EGF repeat-containing protein required for fertility in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Waksman Institute and Department of Genetics, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA.


The spe-9 gene is required for fertility in Caenorhabditis elegans and encodes a sperm transmembrane protein with an extracellular domain (ECD) that contains 10 epidermal growth factor (EGF) repeats. Deletion analysis reveals that the EGF repeats and the transmembrane domain are required for fertilization. In contrast, the cytoplasmic region of SPE-9 is not essential for fertilization. Individual point mutations in all 10 EGF motifs uncover a differential sensitivity of these sequences to alteration. Some EGF repeats cannot tolerate mutation leading to a complete lack of fertility. Other EGF repeats can be mutated to create animals with temperature-sensitive (ts) fertility phenotypes. All ts mutations were generated by changing either conserved cysteine or glycine residues in the EGF motifs. For two endogenous ts alleles of spe-9, loss of function at nonpermissive temperatures is not due to protein mislocalization or degradation. Additionally, the proper localization of SPE-9 in sperm is not altered in a genetically interacting fertility mutant (spe-13) or a mutant that affects sperm vesicle-plasma membrane fusion (fer-1). Like the EGF repeats in the Notch/LIN-12/GLP-1 receptors and their ligands, the EGF repeats in SPE-9 may carry out different functions. Because EGF motifs are found in many proteins in different species, similar experimental strategies could be used to generate useful temperature-sensitive mutations in other EGF motif-containing molecules.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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