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Genes Dev. 1989 Dec;3(12A):1823-33.

The mec-3 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans requires its own product for maintained expression and is expressed in three neuronal cell types.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027.


The homeo-box-containing gene mec-3 of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, is expressed in several sensory neurons, as assayed by expression of a mec-3-lacZ fusion. These cells are the touch receptors, which mediate the response to gentle touch, and the FLP and PVD neurons. PVD mediates a response to harsh mechanical stimuli, and FLP has an ultrastructure suggestive of a mechanoreceptor, but its function is unknown. mec-3 is necessary for the differentiation of the touch receptors, because in mec-3 mutants, the touch receptors do not function and have none of their distinguishing features. mec-3 is also needed for PVD function: The PVD neurons no longer mediate a response to harsh mechanical stimuli in the mutants. The expression of the mec-3-lacZ fusion, and presumably mec-3 itself, is altered by mutations in several genes originally identified by their effects on touch cell development. unc-86, another homeo-box-containing gene, is necessary for all mec-3-lacZ expression, but also affects several other lineages and cells in which mec-3 is not expressed. mec-3 activity appears to be required for maintained expression of the mec-3-lacZ fusion in all cells in which it is expressed. In a mec-17 mutant, mec-3-lacZ expression is not maintained in the touch receptors, but is not affected in the FLP and PVD neurons. These findings suggest that combinatorial mechanisms of gene regulation control both the expression of mec-3 itself and its action in promoting the terminal differentiation of various cell types.

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