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Nature. 2002 Jul 18;418(6895):331-5.

Identification of genes expressed in C. elegans touch receptor neurons.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA.


The extent of gene regulation in cell differentiation is poorly understood. We previously used saturation mutagenesis to identify 18 genes that are needed for the development and function of a single type of sensory neuron--the touch receptor neuron for gentle touch in Caenorhabditis elegans. One of these genes, mec-3, encodes a transcription factor that controls touch receptor differentiation. By culturing and isolating wild-type and mec-3 mutant cells from embryos and applying their amplified RNA to DNA microarrays, here we have identified genes that are known to be expressed in touch receptors, a previously uncloned gene (mec-17) that is needed for maintaining touch receptor differentiation, and more than 50 previously unknown mec-3-dependent genes. These genes are randomly distributed in the genome and under-represented both for genes that are co-expressed in operons and for multiple members of gene families. Using regions 5' of the start codon of the first 20 genes, we have also identified an over-represented heptanucleotide, AATGCAT, that is needed for the expression of touch receptor genes.

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