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Dev Biol. 2000 Aug 15;224(2):496-506.

sem-4 promotes vulval cell-fate determination in Caenorhabditis elegans through regulation of lin-39 Hox.

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Department of Molecular, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


Vulval cell-fate determination in Caenorhabditis elegans requires the action of numerous gene products, including components of the Ras/Raf/MAPK signaling cascade and the hox gene lin-39. sem-4 encodes a zinc finger protein with previously characterized roles in fate specification of sex myoblasts, coelomocytes, and multiple neuronal lineages in C. elegans (M. Basson and R. Horvitz, 1996, Genes Dev. 10, 1953-1965). By characterizing three new alleles of sem-4 that we identified in a screen for vulval-defective mutants, we determined that loss of sem-4 activity results in abnormal specification of the secondary vulval cell lineages. We analyzed sem-4 interactions with other genes involved in vulval differentiation and determined that sem-4 does not function directly in the Ras-mediated signal transduction pathway but acts in close association with and upstream of lin-39 to promote vulval cell fate. We demonstrate that sem-4 regulates lin-39 expression and propose that sem-4 is a regulator of lin-39 in the vulval cell-fate determination pathway that may act to link lin-39 to incoming signals.

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