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Dev Biol. 2001 Aug 15;236(2):289-303.

The Caenorhabditis elegans Six/sine oculis class homeobox gene ceh-32 is required for head morphogenesis.

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Division of Cell Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


Caenorhabditis elegans has four members of the Six/sine oculis class of homeobox genes, ceh-32, ceh-33, ceh-34, and ceh-35. Proteins encoded by this gene family are transcription factors sharing two conserved domains, the homeodomain and the Six/sine oculis domain, both involved in DNA binding. ceh-32 expression was detected during embryogenesis in hypodermal and neuronal precursor cells and later in descendants of these cells as well as in gonadal sheath cells. RNAi inactivation studies suggest that ceh-32 plays a role in head morphogenesis, like vab-3, the C. elegans Pax-6 orthologue. ceh-32 and vab-3 are coexpressed in head hypodermal cells and ceh-32 mRNA levels are reduced in vab-3 mutants. Moreover, ectopic expression of VAB-3 in transgenic worms is able to induce ceh-32 ectopically. In addition, we demonstrate that VAB-3 is able to bind directly to the ceh-32 upstream regulatory region in vitro and to activate reporter gene transcription in a yeast one-hybrid system. Our results suggest that VAB-3 acts upstream of ceh-32 during head morphogenesis and directly induces ceh-32. Thus, ceh-32 appears to be the first target gene of VAB-3 identified so far.

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