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Curr Biol. 1999 Nov 4;9(21):1243-6.

ETR-1, a homologue of a protein linked to myotonic dystrophy, is essential for muscle development in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 2QH, UK.


Post-transcriptional gene processing by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) has crucial roles during development [1] [2]. Here, we report the identification of ETR-1 (ELAV-type RNA-binding protein), a muscle-specific RBP in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. ETR-1 is related to the family of RBPs defined by the protein ELAV, which is essential for neurogenesis in the fruit fly Drosophila; members of the family possess two consecutive RNA recognition motifs (RRMs) separated from a third, carboxy-terminal RRM by a tether region of variable length [3] [4] [5] [6]. Its closest homologue, CUG-binding protein (CUG-bp), is a human RBP that has been implicated in the disease myotonic dystrophy and binds CUG repeats in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of the mRNA for myotonic dystrophy protein kinase (DMPK) [7] [8]. Inactivation of etr-1 by RNA-mediated interference resulted in embryonic lethality. Embryos failed to elongate and became paralysed, a phenotype characteristic of C. elegans Pat mutants, which are defective in muscle formation and function [9]. The data indicate that etr-1 is essential for muscle development in C. elegans, perhaps by playing a role in post-transcriptional processing of some muscle component, and thus suggesting a possible conservation of gene function with human CUG-bp.

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