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Mol Genet Genomics. 2003 Sep;269(6):797-806. Epub 2003 Jul 30.

Genetic analysis of ryanodine receptor function in Caenorhabditis elegans based on unc-68 revertants.

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Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Okayama University, 700-8530 Okayama, Japan.


The Caenorhabditis elegans ryanodine receptor is encoded by the unc-68 gene, and functions as a Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release channel during muscle contraction. To investigate the factors that suppress calcium release and identify molecules that interact with the ryanodine receptor, we isolated revertants from two unc-68 mutants. Three of the revertants obtained from the null allele unc-68(e540), which displayed normal motility, had intragenic mutations that resulted in failure to splice out intron 21. The other two, kh53 and kh55, had amino acid insertions in the third of the four RyR domains. The brood size and the egg laying rate remain abnormal in these revertants. This suggests the third RyR domain may be required for egg laying and embryogenesis, although we can not determine a molecular mechanism. Five ketamine sensitive revertants recovered from the missense mutant unc-68(kh30) showed altered responses to caffeine, ryanodine, levamisole and ouabain relative to those of the unc-68(kh30) animals. These may carry second-site suppressor mutations, which may define genes for proteins that regulate the Ca2+ concentration in body-wall muscle. One of these mutants, kh52, shows lower motility and higher sensitivity to drugs, and this mutation was mapped to chromosome X. These observations provide a basis for the study of ryanodine receptor functions in embryogenesis and in calcium-mediated regulation of muscle contraction in C. elegans. This is the first study to show that the conserved RyR domain of the receptor acts in egg laying and embryogenesis.

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