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Dev Biol. 2006 Jul 15;295(2):664-77. Epub 2006 Apr 7.

The T-box factor TBX-2 and the SUMO conjugating enzyme UBC-9 are required for ABa-derived pharyngeal muscle in C. elegans.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences (MC567), University of Illinois at Chicago, 900 S. Ashland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.


The C. elegans pharynx is produced from the embryonic blastomeres ABa and MS. Pharyngeal fate in the ABa lineage is specified by the combined activities of GLP-1/Notch-mediated signals and the TBX-37 and TBX-38 T-box transcription factors. Here, we show another T-box factor TBX-2 also functions in ABa-derived pharyngeal development. tbx-2 mutants arrest as L1 larvae lacking most or all ABa-derived pharyngeal muscles. In comparison, tbx-2 mutants retain ABa-derived marginal cells and pharyngeal muscles derived from MS. A tbx-2Colon, two colonsgfp translational fusion is expressed in a dynamic pattern in C. elegans embryos beginning near the 100-cell stage. Early expression is limited to a small number of cells, which likely include the ABa-derived pharyngeal precursors, while later expression is observed in body wall muscles and a subset of pharyngeal neurons. TBX-2 contains 2 consensus sumoylation sites, and it interacts in a yeast two-hybrid assay with the UBC-9 and GEI-17 components of the C. elegans SUMO-conjugating pathway. ubc-9(RNAi) has been previously shown to cause variable embryonic and larval arrest, and we find that, like tbx-2 mutants, ubc-9(RNAi) animals lack ABa-derived pharyngeal muscles. ubc-9(RNAi) also alters the subnuclear distribution of TBX-2::GFP fusion protein, suggesting that UBC-9 and TBX-2 interact in C. elegans. Together, these results indicate that TBX-2 and SUMO-conjugating enzymes are necessary for ABa-derived pharyngeal muscle, and we hypothesize that TBX-2 function requires sumoylation. Sumoylation is increasingly recognized as an important mechanism controlling activity of many nuclear factors, and these results provide the first evidence that T-box factor activity may require sumoylation.

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