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Genetics. 2001 Jan;157(1):199-209.

Isoform-specific mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans heterochronic gene lin-14 affect stage-specific patterning.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The Caenorhabditis elegans heterochronic gene lin-14 specifies the temporal sequence of postembryonic developmental events. lin-14, which encodes differentially spliced LIN-14A and LIN-14B1/B2 protein isoforms, acts at distinct times during the first larval stage to specify first and second larval stage-specific cell lineages. Proposed models for the molecular basis of these two lin-14 gene activities have included the production of functionally distinct isoforms and the generation of a temporal gradient of LIN-14 protein. We report here that loss of the LIN-14B1/B2 isoforms alone affects one of the two lin-14 temporal patterning functions, the specification of second larval stage lineages. A temporal expression difference between LIN-14A and LIN-14B1/B2 is not responsible for the stage-specific phenotype: protein levels of all LIN-14 isoforms are high in early first larval stage animals and decrease during the first larval stage. However, LIN-14A can partially substitute for LIN-14B1/B2 when expressed at a higher-than-normal level in the late L1 stage. These data indicate that LIN-14B1/B2 isoforms do not provide a distinct function of the lin-14 locus in developmental timing but rather may contribute to an overall level of LIN-14 protein that is the critical determinant of temporal cell fate.

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