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Genes Dev. 1998 Jul 1;12(13):1947-52.

pha-4, an HNF-3 homolog, specifies pharyngeal organ identity in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Huntsman Cancer Institute, Center for Children, Department of Oncological Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112 USA.


To build complex organs, embryos have evolved mechanisms that integrate the development of cells unrelated to one another by cell type or ancestry. Here we show that the pha-4 locus establishes organ identity for the Caenorhabditis elegans pharynx. In pha-4 mutants, pharyngeal cells are transformed into ectoderm. Conversely, ectopic pha-4 expression produces excess pharyngeal cells. pha-4 encodes an HNF-3 homolog selectively expressed in the nascent digestive tract, including all pharynx precursors at the time they are restricted to a pharyngeal fate. We suggest that pha-4 is a key component of a transcription-based mechanism to endow cells with pharyngeal organ identity.

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